Island Dispatch | Fall 2019


The Wetland Legacy of the Beaver Will Live On

View over Richardson Marsh toward Richardson Bay | Joe Belcovson

“Beaverton” is the name of a scenic valley, a busy road, and the largest freshwater marsh in San Juan County—all located just outside Friday Harbor. Early descriptions of San Juan Island do not record how and when the name originated. It’s clear, though, that beavers populated the area long before non-Native settlers began clearing and draining the wetland for agriculture in the 1860s. The industrious rodents had previously built at least one dam in the lower part of the valley, flooding a boggy forest to create an expansive marsh and giving the area its name. By the 1870s, however, trappers had taken the last beaver out of Beaverton.

A photo of a group of people outside.
SJPT Members on Blakely Island | Staff Archive


The San Juan Preservation Trust is only as effective as our members are loyal. You, your volunteerism, and your annual gift, are what keeps us acquiring new island acres, caring for special island places, and connecting you to the places you love. The best part of the San Juan Preservation Trust is YOU and your fellow members.

In early November, you will receive our annual membership letter. We hope you will respond to it as quickly and as generously as you can. Your gift – whatever the size – will help move the needle on the important work we do together. Whether you renew your support for the 40th year (bless you!), or join the Preservation Trust with a first-time membership gift, you have a tremendous impact on our ability to permanently protect our shorelines, forests, open spaces, farmland, and fresh-water resources.

There are several ways to make your annual membership gift. You can: send a check in the envelope enclosed with your appeal letter, donate online using a credit card, donate appreciated securities, give through your donor-advised fund, or make a charitable transfer from your IRA required minimum distribution. (Go to to read more about these options).

Look for your letter in November. Once you receive it, kick off the year-end giving season by making your donation and, with it, your vote of confidence in the work we do together.


In 1974, Molly Ciliberti and her husband, Jack, met in a waiting room of a Seattle-area hospital, where she worked as a nurse and he as a doctor. Despite the unromantic setting, they immediately clicked and were married in 1982. The couple went on many sailing trips, often north as far as Southeast Alaska. Their favorite jumping-off point for these journeys was Reid Harbor, on Stuart Island.

Their fondness for Reid Harbor eventually led them to look for property in the area. On a boat tour with a real estate agent in 1988, they rounded the southernmost tip of Stuart Island and the agent said, “There’s a sunny point just ahead that you might like.”

Indeed they did. Jack said, “When I think of the San Juan Islands, this is exactly what comes to mind.” They eventually purchased 7.7 acres, including 1,400 feet of rocky, meadow-rimmed shoreline. It became a beloved family retreat, which they called Sunny Point.

Tragically, Jack was killed in an airplane accident in 2014. A few years later, Molly was diagnosed with a brain tumor, then suffered a debilitating fall. In spite of it all, she retains an amazingly sunny outlook, backed up by a deep love of nature.

“It was always our intention to never let Sunny Point be developed,” she said. Last year, she ensured its permanent protection by donating a conservation easement on the property to the Preservation Trust, in Jack’s memory.

“Preserving this beautiful place gives me such delight and pleasure,” she said. “As a nurse, I saved many peoples’ lives, but this is the best thing I’ve ever done. And I know Jack would be thrilled.”

A peninsula stretching into water.
Sunny Point looking toward Reid Harbor | Staff Archive