Lopez Community Land Trust celebrates 20 years of success

The strap crew frames up the bales for one of the land trust structures.

The Lopez Community Land Trust celebrates their 20th anniversary on July 25 and invites all Lopezians to visit during their Open House. The Land Trust, which was started in 1989 because of the rising cost of housing, came about because a group of Lopezians were passionate about creating affordable housing and sustaining a more diverse community.

“It’s a model that came out of the Ghandian movement and the civil rights movement; the land is held in trust by a community organization.” Rhea Miller, avid volunteer and supporter of the trust, said. “It’s to be used either for affordable housing, sustainable agriculture, or community development. There is a strong stewardship component to all of these things, i.e., ecology, environment, sustainable agriculture, etc. For instance, this is the fourth housing project we’ve done, and it will also be the first zero net site we’ve built. Zero net means for whatever energy we use on the site, we manufacture on-site.”

What the land trust wanted to accomplish was nothing short of astonishing: their mandate was to build affordable straw bale housing that would use zero net power. After the successes of Morgantown, completed in 1992, then Coho, in 1995 and Innisfree in 2002, this new community is the greenest yet. The visionaries of the trust put their minds to the task, and the community land trust now has its fourth group of buildings on the island that incorporate solar energy, straw bale construction, and a green-minded philosophy that benefits the environment and humans alike.

“We used passive solar heating, strawbales, and deep insulation in all the buildings,” Miller commented. “We also installed blinds that trap the excess solar energy. The thing that takes most of your energy is hot water. Most of the homes have their own solar hot water systems, with evacuated tubes. The copper wire is heated which then runs into a manifold, which has a tube of glycol. The glycol heats up (it’s like antifreeze) and then it wraps around the hot water heater and heats the water. It can go up to almost boiling.

The Land Trust Open House, held on Saturday July 25, will start at 1:30 p.m. and continue until 4 p.m. There will be a program with guest speakers Kevin Ranker and John McCoy, Washington state legislators, from 1:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. There will be a tour from 2 – 4 p.m. through the Common Ground neighborhood. Refreshments will be served; all ages are welcome and expected.

“The thing that is important is that people come in and own their own homes,” Miller said. “They all put in sweat equity in order to qualify for affordable housing applications.”