It was a busy and exciting year for the San Juan County Land Bank, including many inaugural events! Here’s a look back at some of the highlights:
Coho Preserve opens
In April more 20 people were treated to Red-tailed hawk calls, and gorgeous mosses and ferns at the inaugural celebration of Orcas Island’s newest preserve, located in Olga.
Many thanks to our Orcas Preserve Steward Ruthie and field-assistant Casey for their hard work in getting the preserve ready, as well as to the multiple volunteers that assisted in building the parking lot and trails.
San Juan Island Family Nature Club
Finding time to get outside can be tough, and figuring out what to do once outside can be even tougher. With that in mind, the Land Bank and the San Juan Island National Historical Park started the San Juan Island Family Nature Club, a free monthly outdoor exploration club for families.
Monthly events included tidepooling at Deadman Bay Preserve, a National Trails Day hike around Briggs Lake with the San Juan Island Trails Committee, and the (almost) Total Solar Eclipse at South Beach.
The land bank’s first outer island preserve
The San Juan County Land Bank received a spectacular gift from Sarah Hart, an 80-acre donation on Henry Island! Sarah generously donated the underlying fee interest in the property to the Land Bank, along with a conservation easement to The San Juan Preservation Trust.
The Preserve has two shorelines extending over 3,100 feet in total. The western shore on the Haro Strait hosts several cormorant rookeries, and above, Garry oak savannah reaches to the summit with expansive views to Vancouver Island. On the east, dense forests of the interior yield to Open Bay with several pocket beaches nestled amidst rocky outcrops.
Orcas Off-Leash Area opens
Parks, trails and natural areas are great places to share with our canine friends, and more and more folks are doing it every day. Working together, the San Juan County Land Bank, Orcas Island Park and Recreation District, and non-profit Orcas Off-Leash Area (OOLA) members created a 1.5 acre facility on a corner of the Land Bank’s Crescent Beach Preserve, adjacent to Mt. Baker Road and Buck Park for humans and furry friends to spend some quality time.
Fisherman Bay Shoreline Enhancement Project
The shoreline along The Spit Preserve at Fisherman Bay on Lopez was remodeled to more closely match its historical gradient, which will also help to preserve this habitat during future sea level rise. The Friends of the San Juans procured grants from National Fish and Wildlife and the Rose Foundation for the Environment which helped to remove the decrepit dock from the preserve in 2016. But there was more to do! In the early 1900’s a berm had been constructed along the eastern shore of the preserve by digging a ditch and piling the dirt in a berm on the water side. This year a crew refilled the ditch with the original soil from the berm, saving the native vegetation to place it back on top. The result is a gentle gradient to the beach habitat that will allow it to move with higher sea levels.
Inaugural Salish Seeds project seed packet
The efforts of nursery manager Eliza Habegger, nursery assistant, Ander Cole, and countless Salish Seeds Project volunteers have paid off. The nursery at Red Mill Farm grew over 25,000 plugs this year and our own San Juan County Bee Blend – a mix of nine local, native wildflower species – debuted at the San Juan County Fair this summer!
Lopez Channel acquisition
In June the Land Bank gained nine and a half acres, including second growth forest, coastal bluffs and about 470 feet of shoreline along the west side of Lopez
San Juan Islands specialty license plate campaign
This summer the Terrestrial Managers Group and the Madrona Institute held a design contest for the San Juan Islands Specialty License Plate and local artist, Nancy Spaulding’s entry, “Evening Passage”, garnered the most votes out of the 47 entries. This specialty license plate will fund grants for conservation, protection, and stewardship programs in the San Juan Islands.
Once the required 3,500 signatures of Washington state residents are received, Senator Ranker will submit the license plate bill to the legislature and the San Juan Islands will have its very own license plate!
Orcas Middle School farm-to-classroom
This past spring the Land Bank and Orcas Island Middle School launched a farm to classroom program which introduced Orcas middle schoolers to the happenings at our Coffelt Farm Preserve! Students learned about wool, poultry, and pollinators as well as enjoyed some hands-on experience!
Local Hero – The aruminator is taking back Lopez!
Jim Falconer and his wife Birte are neighbors of the Land Bank’s Fisherman Bay Preserve on Lopez Island and first noticed the noxious weed, Arum italicum (aka Italian arum) in their woods. Quickly realizing the threat this hearty invasive posed — which Jim says is harder to kill than the Terminator and coined the term “aruminator” — Jim made eradicating Italian arum his mission and has been enlisting recruits for this war of weeds and helping Lopez Preserve Steward, Tim Clark whenever he can. Jim even has a stand at the Lopez Farmers Market to educate people on identifying and eliminating Italian arum. Stop by and say thank you to Jim next time you’re at the market!
For more information on identifying Italian arum, or any noxious weed of San Juan County, visit Washington State University Extension or call Noxious Weed Program Coordinator, Jason Ontjes at 360-376-3499.