At the end of the year, The Islands’ Sounder takes a look at the biggest headlines of the past 12 months.
We chose the top stories from our most-read online articles and events we feel impacted our communities. Part I ran in last week’s edition.
#8 Two elk make their way to Orcas
According to Ruth Milner, district wildlife biologist at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, it’s possible the elk were booted out of their group and went exploring for new territory. She said that WDFW would continue to monitor the situation but had no intention of capturing and relocating the bulls.
The most recent sighting reported to The Sounder was on the Fourth of July, when the two bulls were spotted near Obstruction Pass.
#9 Warren Miller, Paul Allen die
Filmmaker, ski icon, WWII veteran and Orcas islander Warren A. Miller died of natural causes at his home on Jan. 24, 2018. He was 93.
Miller was known around the world for his annual ski feature films that he released for more than 60 years. “The original ski bum,” his talents extended beyond filming his ski adventures. He also produced more than 500 films and was an artist, cartoonist and author – he wrote more than 1,200 columns and 11 books.
Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen died in mid-October when cancer that he had successfully beaten twice returned. He was 65.
Allen co-founded the multinational technology giant Microsoft with childhood friend Bill Gates in 1975. According to Forbes, he left the company when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 1983. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009. Allen owned a 387-acre property on Lopez Island’s Sperry Peninsula for which he paid $8 million in 1996.
In the islands, Allen donated $157,000 to the Children’s House, the Lopez Community Land Trust, OPAL Community Land Trust and Lopez Center. He also donated to Orcas Island’s Four Winds * Westward Ho in 1997. According to Forbes, he donated more than $2 billion in his lifetime.
#10 Oprah buys Orcas Island home
Entertainment news outlets began reporting that Oprah Winfrey purchased an Orcas Island getaway in early June.
Winfrey is associated with Madrona Tree, LLC, which bought the $7.15 million property in question. But according to realtor Wally Gudgell, who handled the sale, it is considered a “passive” investment, meaning there is no indication she will occupy the property. Seed Money LLC purchased an adjoining property for $1.125 million.
“A business associate of Winfrey’s, Bob Greene, is the principal of the other purchasing entity and the one actively involved in investments on Orcas,” Gudgell, who sold the properties through Windermere Orcas Island, told The Sounder. The sales closed on May 31.
The 43-acre estate is called Madroneagle, located in the Olga area and features a 10,251-square-foot home. Gudgell says it is also untrue that Winfrey bought a “guest house” as part of the estate. That was sold separately more than a year ago to other clients.
#11 An outstanding year for Viking athletics
Orcas Island High School athletics had some outstanding seasons with baseball, softball and golf all attaining the state playoffs.
The Vikings’ baseball team finished as district champions while Viking golf and softball made the coveted trip to Eastern Washington for final state rounds.
Lady Vikings softball was one of the top 16 teams in the state at the 2018 2B WIAA Softball Tournament May 25-26. They lost their first game, won their second and lost a third match-up on day two of the tournament.
Vikings golf sent four players to the district playoffs and three golfers to state May 22-23. Orcas was represented by Leif Gustafson and Maia and Zoe Lewis-Shunk. It has been four years since Orcas has sent a male to the state tournament and this is the third trip to state for both the Lewis-Shunk women.
Leif came in 32nd out of 40 players, Zoe placed 52 out of 80 and Maia advanced to the final, earning her 16th place overall.
The large crowd of Orcas fans who traveled to the games were treated to a thrilling semifinal comeback win against south sound champions Evergreen Lutheran on Nov. 16.
In the state final game against Eastern Washington powerhouse Prescott Academy the next day, once again the Viking players took the field with the intention of controlling the tactics and tempo of the game – and succeeded at maintaining possession and attacked Prescott for most of the half. The half finished with a tie score 0-0. But despite all of Orcas’ best efforts and skilled play, Prescott eventually scored on a broken play from a corner kick, and with time running out put the game away with a second goal on a fast break, with Orcas conceding at the whistle 0-2.
#12 April’s Grove makes major headway
For nearly 30 years, OPAL Land Trust has provided affordable houses for purchase and rent for low-income residents.
Its most recent project, the $12.35 million April’s Grove, will break ground in spring and provide an additional 45 rental units, sized from studio to three bedrooms, for low- and middle-income residents. The complex will house an anticipated 100 to 140 people.
OPAL began the process of purchasing the property across from the Children’s House in 2015 and held community design meetings. In 2016, individual supports donated $750,000 toward the project, and OPAL applied for grants from the Washington State Housing Trust and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. The purchase was finalized in 2017, and San Juan County committed to funding the project while supporters donated an additional $450,000. In 2018, federal and state grants were awarded and permits were secured.
The Orcas Island Community Foundation donated $250,000 toward the project in October 2018. The support – the largest single donation that OICF has ever made – was possible due to a legacy gift from the late Bob Henigson.
Preparation of the property, including clearing of trees, began in December, and groundbreaking is set to commence in spring. OPAL expects to begin renting units in 2020.
The original plan for April’s grove included a commons building with public showers and a community meeting space, but with a reduction in the budget, those two additions have been scrapped. The new commons will house only laundry facilities, the resident manager’s office space, a small conference room, maintenance storage and postal boxes.
One of the proposed buildings was eliminated, meaning some of the studio and one-bedroom apartments will be on top of one another, requiring second-floor entry to the upper residences.
The team has also modified finishes, simplified exteriors and revised some construction methods to reduce costs.
#13 Trans Mountain Pipeline controversy
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion on Nov. 29, 2016, with the stipulation that the company must meet 157 conditions laid out by the National Energy Board in its May 2016 approval. The Canadian federal government offered to buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline from its Texas-based owner Kinder Morgan for 4.5 billion Canadian dollars in May.
The Canadian Federal Court of Appeals overturned the country’s approval to move forward with construction of the controversial oil pipeline on Aug. 30.
The Canadian government referred the decision back to the National Energy Board on Sept. 20.
The board heard testimonies from more than 20 First Nations communities on the damaging repercussions to their culture from the pipeline expansion in November and December and will decide in late January.
Representatives from the Lummi, Suquamish, Swinomish and Tulalip tribes traveled to Victoria, British Columbia, to give testimony against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion to the Canadian National Energy Board on Nov. 28.
Speakers cited concern for the whales, loss of culture and the overall health of the region as reasons against the pipeline expansion.