Ellis Family Preserve
Year Protected: 1989, 1998, 2017
Land Protected: 344 acres
Shoreline Protected: 5,691 feet
Public Benefits: Shoreline, forest, rocky balds, agricultural lands, wetlands
On the last day of 2017, a closing took place that represents the largest donation—as measured in both acres and appraised value—that the Preservation Trust has ever received. The newly created Ellis Family Preserve encompasses 344 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. In 1998, the Ellises followed up with a gift to the Preservation Trust of 15 of the easement-protected acres that stretch between Parks and Hicks Bays. Formerly called the Hicks Bay Preserve, these 15 fee-owned acres are now part of the consolidated Ellis Family Preserve.
The 330-acre SJPT preserve is adjacent to 579 acres that Fred and Marilyn Ellis had previously donated to University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs as a biological preserve. Altogether, Fred and Marilyn were responsible for permanently conserving more than 1,400 acres of land on both Shaw and Lopez Islands, leaving a true legacy of conservation.
Now that we own the historic farmstead, we assume responsibility for maintaining the structures and caring for the property, in perpetuity—a major undertaking for SJPT’s stewardship staff and resources. Our long-term vision includes allowing limited public access to portions of the preserve and creating a trail system. First, however, we must clean up the buildings, catch up on some deferred maintenance, and develop a long-term stewardship plan.
The planning process will take time. We want to be sensitive to the Ellis family’s wishes and the local community’s needs. The Preservation Trust has formed a steering committee of board members (including Shaw residents) and staff to develop the long-term plan and begin implementing it. In the meantime, occasional public events provide opportunities for Shaw residents and the broader SJPT community to see and enjoy this amazing legacy of Fred and Marilyn Ellis and their family.