In 1992, working together under the leadership of Joe Miller, Dale Hazen, and the late John Geary, a group of 22 donors purchased and donated to the Preservation Trust a 1.2 mile stretch of natural shoreline along Burrows Bay on Fidalgo Island. The property includes rocky cliffs, forested ravines, and sandy beach areas. The area is now known as the John H. Geary Shoreline Preserve in honor of Mr. Geary who, despite his failing health, played such an active role in this project.
This 38-acre parcel was under immediate threat by a development proposal (initiated by a bankruptcy proceeding) when the San Juan Preservation Trust was contacted by neighbors who wanted to purchase the land and protect it. While the Preservation Trust was not active on Fidalgo Island (Skagit County) at the time, the lack of any other conservation organizations in the area prompted the Preservation Trust to step in. The neighbors subsequently created a working group along Rosario Way and at Edith Point, raising sufficient funds to acquire the property. Through a series of complex transactions that included a combination of land gifts and conservation easements, the neighbors then donated the shoreline to the Preservation Trust to manage as a nature preserve in perpetuity.
While the diverse ownership structure of the Geary Preerve presents the Preservation Trust with perhaps its most challenging stewardship responsibility, this remains a model for the capacity of neighborhood initiatives. “This was an excellent example of how a dedicated group of neighbors can get together and make a commitment to preserve valuable wildlife habitat in their community,” noted Dale Hazen, one of the neighborhood leaders and (subsequently) a member of the Preservation Trust’s board of trustees.
After this project was completed, the Skagit Land Trust (another non-profit land trust) was established to specifically protect land in Skagit County. The San Juan Preservation Trust, which has always worked to protect the entire San Juan archipelago (regardless of political boundaries), now works closely with the Skagit Land Trust to protect the islands of Skagit County.