San Juan Preservation Trust

Island Dispatch | April 2017

Devotion to Place


Staff Archive

On a gray March morning, Barbara and Randy Schnabel launch into a familiar routine. They pull on their warm hooded parkas, leather gloves, and “Alaskan sneakers” (high rubber boots). Barbara checks her coat pocket to make sure she has a plastic bag for trash, and Randy grabs his bright-orange weed wrench. In spitting rain they set out for Peach Preserve, a five-minute walk from their home on Guemes Island.

Once there, they go to work. …

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Randy zeroes in on emerging flora non grata like Scotch broom and spurge laurel (or Daphne). He uproots the invaders with his digging knife or weed wrench. Barbara patrols the nearly half-mile- long beach and fills her bag with plastic coffee lids, empty shotgun shells, and other litter (“I even found a shoe once,” she says). Dismantling driftwood structures gives her special satisfaction, as she believes “it’s better when people leave only footprints.”

Since the Preservation Trust purchased this 64-acre preserve in 2000, Barbara and Randy have adopted it, caring for its beach, marsh, and adjacent woodland as if it were their own back yard. “In all seasons, in all weather, they are out patrolling this small yet diverse property on the south shore of Guemes Island,” says Stewardship Manager Kathleen Foley. “They are close observers of the world around them and regularly report on their observations—everything from birdsong and nesting activity, to the people they meet enjoying the preserve, and sometimes, on the abuses this much-loved little preserve receives.

“No one deserves our Volunteer of the Year award more than the Schnabels,” she adds. “They’ve been great volunteer stewards for almost 20 years.”

Like many resident retirees, the Schnabels moved to the islands by degrees. “My family has been coming here since before I was born,” Barbara says. As a child growing up in Seattle, she spent countless weekends and holidays on Guemes. She and Randy continued the tradition after they were married. When they first “adopted” Peach Preserve as SJPT land stewards, they were both teachers in Seattle-area schools and did their monitoring duties on weekends. Two years ago, they sold their home in Seattle and moved full-time into a house they built on property just a stone’s throw from Barbara’s parents’ old place. They make their rounds of Peach Preserve about twice a week.

“Walking through the preserve is always restorative,” Barbara says. For Randy, who grew up on a ranch in California, the work has a practical benefit. “I always had plenty of work to do and imbibed a family bias against exercise for its own sake,” he says. “But now that I’m a sedentary retiree, having invasive weeds so handy gives me an excuse to get exercise while doing something useful.”

The Schnabels are among about 30 active SJPT Land Stewards who have adopted a preserve. “It’s volunteers like them who make the work of the Trust possible,” says Stewardship Director Dean Dougherty. Currently, we are looking for more Land Stewards to adopt one of these preserves: Wildwood, Beaverton Marsh, and Eureka on San Juan Island; and Storey on Shaw. If you are interested, please visit to learn more.

Field trip to American Camp. Will Fisher photo


Let’s face it: Annual meetings can be dull affairs involving pie charts and rubber chickens. We try to make ours a little different, with entertaining speakers, a tasty lunch menu, and great shorefront views of Friday Harbor. Please join us on May 13 from 11:30am to 1:30pm at the San Juan Island Yacht Club, just a short stroll from the Friday Harbor ferry landing, for the San Juan Preservation Trust’s 38th official family gathering.

This year’s featured speaker is former Preservation Trust board member Jonathan White. His talk will center on the research he did for his new book, Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean. Over a ten-year period, Jonathan traveled the world to gain insights into extraordinary tidal phenomena, including the higher flood tides that now accompany rising sea levels. Griffin Bay Books will provide copies of Tides if you’d like to buy one for Jonathan to sign.

Over lunch, Executive Director Tim Seifert will brief you on recent accomplishments and current projects. After dessert and adjournment, Stewardship Manager Kathleen Foley will lead an optional “Bluebirds and Butterflies” field trip to American Camp (limited to 20 guests). We hope to see you on May 13!

To register for the Annual Meeting and optional field trip, please visit and click “Sign Up” in the designated place. The cost is $25 per person, payable with your registration. Members may also register by mailing in the enclosed RSVP card with a check. Questions? Call 360-378-2461.

SJPT Board on Waldron Island. Staff archive


Our Trustees often log many hours a week in the service of the Trust and our mission to protect and care for island land. They represent you, our supporters, as they strive to ensure the effectiveness and integrity of our work.

This past year, the SJPT Board of Trustees has consisted of 21 members, the maximum allowed under our bylaws. Standing for re-election this year are three incumbents: Keith Gerrard (Shaw), Charles Givens (Lopez), and Mary Miller (Orcas). This year’s ballot includes no new candidates.

Two incumbents, Carolyn Haugen (San Juan Island) and Steve McKeon (Orcas) have decided to step down after many years of service. “I’ve relied upon Steve McKeon as a primary source of wisdom and moral support since we conspired to tackle Turtleback Mountain over 10 years ago,” says Executive Director Tim Seifert, “and Carolyn Haugen has a gentle genius for inspiring others and for asking the perfect, razor-sharp question at just the right time. I cannot recall a single significant success that this organization has had over the past decade that was not driven by one or both of these two remarkable people.”

We encourage all current SJPT members to vote in this year’s election prior to the May 13 Annual Meeting. Visit to read the candidates’ bios. To vote, complete and mail the enclosed ballot (must be postmarked no later than May 8).  

The Gann Society is a group of individuals who have notified us that they have provided for the San Juan Preservation Trust in their estate plans. Their planned giving will help protect the San Juan Islands in perpetuity.