Ilene Marckx Donated Land For West Hylebos State Park

Ilene Marckx, a science teacher and taxidermist who helped establish West Hylebos State Park in Federal Way, loved nature so much she made her home a shrine to it.

A rock garden teemed with snakes. Butterfly gardens vibrated with bright wings in summer. The woods harbored bat houses.

Her freezer and cardboard boxes held bodies or hides of birds and woodland creatures she had preserved for her own study as well as for sale to schools.

"She was a student of nature, learning all her life," said Jim Cron, president of Friends of Hylebos.

"But she was very selfless. She never tackled a cause for her own gain. She took on things for the people, for the community, or for the good of science."

Her other contributions included consulting on landscaping and chicken farming, co-founding a kindergarten and a King County branch library, and getting a postal window in a Federal Way store so she and her neighbors didn't have to go to Auburn for packages.

Mrs. Marckx died Monday (Aug. 30) of heart failure. She was 88.

Her triumph was giving land and time to create the park, which now includes her family's original 33 1/2 acres of gardens, orchards, meadows and woodlands.

One day in 1975, her husband, Francis Marckx, went down to the swampy part of their land, planning to cut it back. But recognizing the beauty of the area, he and his wife began exploring what Mrs. Marckx would call "a wonder land of green - mosses, lichens, huge trees, plants of all kinds."

Mrs. Marckx thought it would be perfect for a nature trail. That night she presented her idea to an receptive community council.

Thus began a political battle involving re-zoning, resisting proposed sewer lines and raising money.

In 1981, Mrs. Marckx and her husband donated 23 1/2 acres of wetlands to the Washington State Parks Department, with the 10 acres that included their house to pass to the state when they died. In 1985, with the help of Friends of Hylebos and the state Legislature, they got state funding to buy more land, bringing the park to its present 50-plus acres.

Mrs. Marckx and her husband in 1985 earned the state's Environmental Excellence Award. Last year, Mrs. Marckx was named an Environmental Hero by the Washington Environmental Council.

Born in Leavenworth, Chelan County, she grew up near Cheney, Spokane County. She earned a bachelor's degree in zoology at what is now Washington State University. She taught biology and English in Sequim, married and moved to Riverton Heights, where she and her husband had a chicken farm.

They built a chicken farm on Highway 99 in Federal Way in 1945, and also operated a farm store.

They acquired what would become the park in 1954. A house, lake and a native-conifer forest were among their improvements. They also raised bees.

"She had quite an interesting life, and was an unusual woman," said her daughter, Katherine Olson of Whidbey Island. "It's not many mothers who stuff birds on their kitchen tables . . . or give land for parks."

Also surviving are a son, Dallas Marckx of Salem, Ore., three grandsons and a great-granddaughter. Her husband of 56 years died in 1992.

Services are at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Bonney-Watson, 1535 S.W. Dash Point Road, Federal Way.

Donations may go to Friends of West Hylebos State Park, P.O. Box 24971, Federal Way, WA 98093.

Carole Beers' e-mail address is: