Did you hear the news? Skagit Land Trust is looking to acquire a property on Samish Island that would protect a mature second-growth forest, shoreline on Padilla Bay, and would be open to low impact public access. When I heard that the Land Trust was giving tours of this property, I had to check it out for myself.
This property is known as the Samish Flower Farm because it was one of the first farms in the Skagit Valley to grow tulips well over 100 years ago. A tradition of flower cultivation continued through the generations. Although the tulip production was eventually relocated to Bradshaw Road, near Tulip Town, the Samish Flower Farm property is still in the hands of the original family who farmed tulips. The family has agreed to sell the property to Skagit Land Trust if the Trust can raise the funds by October. The Trust plans to preserve the forest and beach as conservation areas they will manage.
The tour started up on Samish Island Road which dissects the property, a crowd of about twenty-fine people gathered with a diverse background of Samish Island residents, friends of Skagit Land Trust, and reporters. Here we learned from great-granddaughter Maggie Murphy, that the family is excited about the idea of the property, which their great-grandparents homesteaded, could become a preserve with public access. We descended down a road that had been established to move cattle across the property towards the beach. We walked through a mature forest which included large Douglas Firs, Western Red Cedars, Maples, and even Pacific Yew and a Garry Oak. Molly Doran, the Executive Director of Skagit Land Trust, pointed out that the forest is great bird habitat, every time she has come to the property she spotted raptors of some sort. Once we got to the beach, we had to cross a 20+ foot span of eelgrass that had washed ashore to get to the sandy beach. The beach is on the north end of Padilla Bay, one of the largest eelgrass beds in the Salish sea; eelgrass is critical habitat for Pacific Herring, juvenile salmon, and crabs. Down on the beach, we walked the 500-foot shoreline taking in the views.
After touring the site, I could see the importance of keeping this property as intact wildlife habitat. The mature forest not only provides shelter for birds, but it holds sediment in place protecting the south-facing side of Samish Island from storms and erosion. The shoreline is natural, meaning no armoring or diking, which promotes eelgrass beds and near-shore habitat. The connection between needing to protect this property with salmon and orcas is easy to see. Herring lay their eggs on eelgrass, juvenile salmon hide in eelgrass and eat the herring, and our Southern Resident Killer Whales eat salmon. A pretty streamlined food wed, which could be fostered by protecting and restoring the land.
Skagit Land Trust has been working with the family to purchase this property in order protect the mature forest, beach, and the its pristine beauty. The purchase price is $1.24 million which includes the land purchase and a property management fund. The Trust needs to raise at least $300,000 in community donations by October of this year. They are also seeking to secure foundation, state, and federal grants to ensure the purchase. If they cannot raise enough funds to purchase the property, the land will likely go back on the market. The property is zoned such that it could be divided into ten different parcels. Most of the upper part of the property could be cleared. Removing the trees and adding houses has a negative impact on the Salish Sea ecosystem; development causes an increase in runoff which carries pollutants into the water. This causes habitat loss and degradation, something our salmon and Southern Resident Killer Whales can’t afford.
Skagit Land Trust’s mission is to conserve wildlife habitat, agricultural and forest lands, scenic open space, wetlands, and shorelines for the benefit of our community and as a legacy for future generations. Through purchasing land and acquiring easements, Skagit Land Trust protects over 8,000 acres, including more than 40 miles of shoreline. To help Skagit Land Trust preserve this beautiful property consider donating on Skagit Land Trust’s website or by calling 360-428-7878. They will also be hosting more tours open to the public on the following dates: August 11th at 10:30 am, August 15th at 3:30 pm, & August 25th at 10:30 am.
Skagit Land Trust is one of 41 member organizations of the Skagit Watershed Council who work together in partnerships and collaboration to understand, protect, and restore the productivity of healthy ecosystems in order to support sustainable fisheries.
By Andrea Reiter, Community Engagement Coordinator