“I wish I could afford to just give it to you, but I can’t.” she said. “But I’ve talked with my neighbors, and they want to help.” This was yet another call from the Eureka neighborhood, a close-knit group of folks that live around our Eureka Preserve along the beautiful northeast coast of San Juan Island. Back in 2000, two Eureka families donated 21 acres in land and conservation easements to the Preservation Trust. Their neighbors took note, and one year later, 12 households living around this newly-protected forest undertook their own fundraising campaign to acquire an adjoining 10-acre undeveloped property that was threatened by development.
Fast forward to 2014. As we worked with this most recent caller, we learned that she was willing to sell her spectacular property for $440,000, a price below its market value (what we call a “bargain sale”). We also learned that she had already convinced her neighbors to donate most of the funds we would need. The rest was easy, and in July the Preservation Trust moved ahead to purchase her 10-acre waterfront parcel. With old growth trees and 350 feet of shoreline, this addition to our once-landlocked Eureka Preserve provides wildlife with a permanent and undisturbed path to the sea.
We permanently protected eight new properties in the past year representing over 240 acres and 1.6 miles of shoreline. These include 95 acres of working farmland (on Lopez and San Juan), 60 acres of shoreline salmon and forage fish habitat (on Stuart Island), and 75 acres in three forested parcels that connect and expand previously-protected Preservation Trust lands (on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan). The Eureka Preserve represents one of three neighborhood conservation efforts that the Preservation Trust completed in 2014.
As many of our most important island landscapes have been subdivided into multiple ownerships, the only way to protect them is to take a collective approach. But as anyone who has participated in a neighborhood homeowner’s association meeting can attest, even the most well-meaning neighbors can find it difficult to achieve a shared goal. To address this challenge, we recently received a grant to develop a formal process for engaging several landowners at once to protect their adjoining properties. We have learned, through experience, that the Preservation Trust is in a unique position to provide guidance, leadership and fundraising support for property owners who wish to work together to realize a shared conservation vision for their neighborhood.