Starting construction at April’s Grove: change for a worthy purpose | Guest Column

by Jeanne Beck and Lisa Byers

OPAL Land Trust

OPAL Community Land Trust will soon start to remove trees at the April’s Grove property. The two of us have worked for OPAL for most of its 28 years so we understand taking down trees may be hard to witness. We are striving to keep as many of the existing trees as possible. We hope knowing more about our planning and design process will help ease the transition.

Initially we hired local forest ecologist Carson Sprenger of Rain Shadow Consulting to identify and rank the large trees by their ability to live many more decades even if other trees around them are removed. The site design saves as many of these trees as possible. The trees we will save are in clusters, and before other trees are removed, the saved-tree areas will be surrounded by fencing to create “preserve and protect” areas. These areas will be untouched throughout the construction process – saving existing trees, shrubs and understory as well.

When constructed, April’s Grove will be a cluster of 45 affordable rental townhomes. Orcas Island desperately needs more affordable rentals and this is an ideal location for the people who will live there. The property is across the street from Children’s House and the Funhouse Commons and next to the public school – close enough for the kids who live there to be able to walk easily and safely. It’s convenient for anyone who will be working in Eastsound and for seniors to shop and attend events. We hope that residents will rarely need to use a car for their daily activities.

The whole planning team, including architects, forest ecologists, landscape architects, community members, trustees and staff members, have worked toward three goals: (1) to maintain the tree canopy over North Beach Rd; (2) to preserve as many healthy tree and plant clusters as possible; and (3) to create homes that are surrounded by the natural environment.

Last week Orcas Master Gardeners started digging up native plants that will be potted and cared for offsite. When building construction is complete, these plants will be returned to the property, and join hundreds of other new native plants, including future heirloom trees.

We know that change can be difficult. Eastsound Village is going through another time with a lot of development, and the accumulation of building projects makes it even harder. The property we now call April’s Grove will no longer be a woodland area, but our plan is that after it has healed from construction, it will be a beautiful place where people will live in homes they can afford and walk by large and beautiful trees every day.

Incorporated in 1989, OPAL serves 105 ownership and 30 rental Orcas Island households. For more information, go to or call (360) 376-3191.