Illg Preserve

San Juan Island

Year Protected: 1998

Land Protected: 11 acres

Shoreline Protected: 810 feet

Public Benefits: Shoreline, rocky balds

The places associated with special experiences often assume a sacred quality in our lives. If the setting also happens to be one of exceptional beauty and is known over the course of many years, the effect can be profound. For the Illg family, the land near Eagle Point on San Juan Island that they have owned, shared, cared for and learned from for over four decades, is such a place.

Paul and Ruth Illg purchased the property in the early 1950s, after Paul’s appointment to the University of Washington Zoology faculty brought them to Seattle and the Friday Harbor Laboratories. The land’s exposure held zoological and botanical appeal, and its exposed intertidal habitat, sheltered beach and dramatic beauty proved an idyllic setting for their family and visiting scientists from around the world.

Committed to minimum impact, and in keeping with a desire for simplicity and self-sufficiency, Ruth Illg designed the small cabin that has been the nucleus of home at “Illg Beach” over the years. Though Paul passed away in 1998 and Ruth in 2001, the spirit of their stewardship is continuing with their three children who care for this exceptional land through a life estate in partnership with the Preservation Trust.

“The decision to place a conservation easement on the land, and subsequently to donate it to the Trust, was consistent with our belief that we are only really temporary guardians of any land,” explains Paul and Ruth’s daughter, Liz. “My siblings and I value the property for our 40 years of memories and the refuge it provides. Our trusteeship would have been limited to our lifetimes if we hadn’t made this choice, and since there will be no more Illgs after this generation, we are confident our intentions will be carried on by the Trust.”

Those intentions—which emphasize protecting the land’s exceptional natural values in perpetuity—are indeed what ongoing Preservation Trust stewardship will ensure.