On the last day of 2017, a closing took place that represented the largest donation—as measured in both acres and appraised value—that the Preservation Trust had previously received since its founding in 1979. The newly created Marilyn and Fred Ellis Preserve spans 345 acres and includes well over a mile of pristine shoreline on southwestern Shaw Island, bordering Parks and Hicks Bays.

This magnificent property encompasses various types of landscapes—fields, forests, shoreline, and a large pond. It also includes many structures that we will need to care for—houses, lots of outbuildings, a water tower, a dam, and a dock onto sheltered Parks Bay.

The Preservation Trust already held a conservation easement on the property (which Fred and Marilyn Ellis donated in 1989), so its many natural values were already protected. Upon assuming ownership, we also assume responsibility for maintaining the structures and caring for the property, in perpetuity—a major undertaking for SJPT’s stewardship staff and resources.

Owning the property also opens up exciting possibilities for SJPT to do more than just ensure that its natural values are protected. Our long-term vision includes allowing limited public access to portions of the preserve by means of guided tours and a public trail. In January 2021, a 2-mile trail that winds through a sampling of the preserve’s many remarkable natural features opened to the public. (You can take a virtual tour of the “Sylvan Loop” trail here.)

Former SJPT board member Alice Hurd, together with Ellis Preserve Curator Ruthie Dougherty, led a multi-year, Herculean effort to clean up the buildings and to assess, categorize, and deal with their contents—which included nearly a century’s worth of the extended Ellis family’s accumulated records and possessions.

If you haven’t already, read Tim Seifert’s tribute to Fred Ellis, Sr. (1916-2010), whose love for Mother Earth—and the San Juan Preservation Trust—inspired this magnificent donation by his heirs.

Also, listen to the voice of Fred Ellis, Sr., himself in this video tribute made not long before his death by J.K. Fox.