Community foundation hosts walking tour of Eastsound

Everywhere you turn in Eastsound you can find someone or something that has benefitted from the Orcas Island Community Foundation.

More than 25 people clustered around OICF Executive Director Hilary Canty as she stood in front of the old gym at the Orcas Island School on Monday, Aug. 28 at the beginning of a walking tour of the town.

Canty led the event that afternoon to present the ongoing projects OICF supports and in which it is actively participating. She hopes there will be more tours in the future.

“We have started these get-togethers to let the community know what we’re doing,” said Canty. “It’ll be fun.”

Canty was joined by Jim Jonassen, who was instrumental in the Eastsound Planning Review Committee’s visioning statement, and Liz Leroy, project manager for the recently completed library expansion and school district upgrades.

The group started at the school to see the new career and technical education building added during the last expansion. Outside of the CTE building’s garage doors are two smaller construction projects by the high school’s applied physics class. One is a tiny house on wheels, the other a shed wherein the students practiced some of their carpentry skills before working on the house.

Then the tour walked to where the proposed track would be. Leroy explained that the late Bob Henigson donated $1 million to build the track and a $1.25 million endowment to maintain the facility. The school district needs an additional $1 million to construct the track and update existing fields and is asking the community to fund that effort with a levy this fall.

The culinary arts kitchen located near the cafeteria was the next stop on the walk. Canty shared that following a July 18 fire in the Four Winds * Westward Ho kitchen, the camp staff used it for two weeks.

The school requires students to take two CTE courses to graduate. Leroy said that surprisingly, there are more female students in the applied physics classes than there are male, and more male students in the culinary arts courses than there are female.

OICF has helped raise funds for many projects and programs at the schools.

“We are very active with the school district,” said Canty.

From there, the group walked down Pine Street. Along the way, a stop was made to observe the private development of a six-condo complex that is being advertised as an affordable housing option. Next, the tour proceeded to the newly expanded Orcas Island Library.

“This was an amazing community effort,” said Canty. “It really is spectacular… it’s a pretty amazing place.”

The library completed its $4 million, 5,000-square-foot expansion in June.

“It has been a community effort,” said Phil Heikkinen, library director. “You can never have enough community input.”

The group then walked through Library Park – another donation from the Henigsons – to the Orcas Resource Community Center office on North Beach. Canty raved about the center’s support of vulnerable community members. It recently found a long-time homeless man a place to live.

“It’s not about our work,” said Canty. “It’s about finding people who can do the work for us.”

The tour moved on to a collection of small rental houses next to the Wausau Building. Each two-bedroom cottage is approximately $1,400 a month to rent, said Canty. One of the small homes is an office for Smalldog Net Solutions, which created the technology OICF uses to run its operations.

Attendees then went to The Funhouse, where they viewed the newly remodeled interior and a fresh sports court before walking to the future home of the OPAL Community Land Trust project April’s Grove. Stalled by Washington state capital budget negotiations, the tour group visited the site where 35 apartments are slated to be constructed. The property has been purchased and OPAL is waiting to hear from the state whether it will receive funding to begin the project. The walking tour then concluded at the OICF office with snacks and drinks.

For more information on future community walking tours, visit OICF’s website at, call (360) 376-6423 or email

“We realized we were going into a new stage,” said Canty. “I think of us as a very strong partner for our community.”