The late Fred and Marilyn Ellis are responsible for leaving a remarkable conservation legacy on Shaw Island. In 1989, they donated a conservation easement to the Preservation Trust on their historic Shaw Island homestead (established in 1883 by two brothers named Tharald). This easement protects more than 300 acres and 1-1/5 miles of shoreline along Parks Bay and Hix Bay. In 1998, the Ellis’s followed up with a gift to the Preservation Trust of 15 of the easement-protected acres that stretch between Parks and Hix Bays, creating the Hicks Bay Preserve.
At the end of 2017, Fred and Marilyn’s heirs donated the remaining easement-protected acres, forming the newly named Marilyn and Fred Ellis Preserve (which subsumed and now supersedes the Hicks Bay Preserve). The conservation easement remains in effect, protecting the entire 344 acres in perpetuity.
The easement and preserve lands are adjacent to 579 acres that the Ellises had previously donated to the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs as a biological preserve. Altogether, Fred and Marilyn were responsible for permanently conserving over 1,400 acres of land on both Shaw and Lopez Islands, leaving a truly remarkable legacy of conservation.
This magnificent Marilyn and Fred Ellis Preserve 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, including a log house built by the Tharalds, several outbuildings, a water tower, a dam, and a dock on magnificent Parks Bay.
Former SJPT board member Alice Hurd, together with Ellis Preserve Curator Ruthie Dougherty, have devoted significant time, care, and diligence to evaluating and organizing the extensive contents of the estate that transferred with ownership of the property. That process deepened our understanding of the land’s story and the enduring legacy of the Ellis family. By sharing the Preservation Trust’s retained collection with visitors to the preserve, we hope to enrich their awareness of the property’s cultural history.
With the accomplishment of this goal in sight, we intend to turn the focus of our efforts to stewarding the enduring natural and agricultural values of the Ellis family’s conservation legacy. An important part of this work will be to learn more about and honor the stewardship of the Coast Salish people who inhabited the San Juan Islands for millennia prior to European settlement.
On a limited basis, a two-mile trail on the Marilyn and Fred Ellis Preserve is open to the public. Guided tours of the historic Tharald Homestead can also be arranged. Click here for visitor information and trail map.