Summer update from the land bank | Guest column

by Lincoln Bormann

Land Bank Director

The San Juan County Land Bank would like to share some of the things we’ve been doing for the community recently.

At Mount Grant Preserve on San Juan, there are now three trails open with more on the way. Instead of hiking up the road, two new trails (one multi-use, one pedestrian) now make their way through the forest creating a longer and less-steep route up the mountain. On the west side, a trail now goes down to what we’ve been calling the Newt Pond, part of one the areas acquired at the end of 2017. We’re also allowing vehicular access on Wednesdays (April–October) as well as Sundays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

We continue our work to open Zylstra Lake Preserve to the public. We’re getting through our last round of ecological assessments including wildlife, wetlands and water quality, and we will be working through our management plan early next year. We are going to have several guided walks during the summer and an open house on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Last year we purchased 155 acres adjacent to Cady Mountain Preserve to buffer an existing old-growth area (one of the few in the islands) and protect a landscape of native wildflowers, cedar forest and wetlands. This property straddles a county road and will allow us to provide public access – another planning process that will take us into 2020 and beyond.

Also on San Juan, the land bank and preservation trust are working on securing a preserve adjacent to Friday Harbor at Beaverton Marsh. Among our hopes is to provide trails from town that will provide views of the marsh and especially its winter waterfowl. Look for more this summer on this acquisition.

Elsewhere in the islands, we recently celebrated the permanent protection of the 400-acre Lopez Hill, which had been a school trust property open to logging or resale by the Department of Natural Resources. In 2009, the Legislature purchased a 50-year lease on the hill, and last year we used land bank funds to buy the remainder. In the end, we completed the acquisition with the county only spending a little over 15 percent of the total appraised value.

Also on Lopez we are collaborating with state parks to expand Spencer Spit, and are close to finalizing a conservation easement on 130 acres of RR Bar Ranch. Additionally, we are beginning our management planning efforts for the Channel Preserve to provide another spot for islanders to reach the shoreline. Stay tuned for the announcement of public meetings on this one.

On Orcas, we are figuring out a change of management at Coffelt Farm after our nonprofit partner decided to close. In the shortterm, Eric and Amy Lum will be managing the farm at least through 2020. The land bank is working with the agricultural community to chart a long-term course. We see this iconic farm growing food and serving as a resource to others for many years to come.

We really encourage people to participate in our planning efforts and meetings — contact Tanja Williamson at to receive land bank updates — and, equally as important, come out to our preserves and take a look for yourselves. Let us know how we’re doing and what we might do better.