McConnell Preserve

McConnell Island

Year Protected: 1997

Land Protected: 9 acres

Shoreline Protected: 1,985 feet

Public Benefits: Shoreline, forest

The Wasp Island Group, nestled between Deer Harbor and Shaw and Crane Islands, represents one of the most unusual collections of little islands in our archipelago. Names like “Fawn,” “Reef”, “Cliff” and “Low” speak to their individual characters. In 1997, the Preservation Trust secured permanent conservation easement protection on a portion of McConnell Island, the largest of the Wasp group, and purchased an adjoining seven-acre parcel to be held in perpetuity as a nature preserve.

This extraordinary arrangement would not have been possible without two essential components: the vision and commitment of the property owner, Jack Thompson, and his family who have a long history of stewardship on McConnell Island; and the exceptional generosity of individual donors whose contributions brought the purchase of the preserve within reach. These efforts effected a truly meaningful conservation legacy.

As the ferry winds through Wasp Passage, the rocky bluffs and pocket beaches of the protected land are visible to the northeast. Black oyster catchers forage at low tide and winter flocks of Harlequin ducks take refuge. Exposed, mossy outcroppings harbor miniature collections of native plants – fawn lily, wild onion, paintbrush and fescue among them. A hearty assortment of trees, defined by the repeated trials of wind, drought, and fire, is edged with sculpted Pacific madrona and the polished silver remains of Rocky Mountain juniper.

On the easement portion of the property, the Thompson cabin, lovingly built with native stone and beach logs, looks over the north bay from a comfortable setback. From the water, one’s eye can follow the sweep of beach from headland to headland, unencumbered by the imposing lines of structure.

“It is a special privilege to participate in the long-term preservation of a portion of McConnell Island, said Preservation Trust president at the time, Judy Moody. “Here, on a scale that is intimate and grasp-able, are all features that make these islands unique in the world.”