The San Juan Preservation Trust and the San Juan County Land Bank jointly acquired 22 acres on Mount Ben, a hilltop on the southern shoulder of San Juan Island’s Mount Dallas, in 2004. The acquisition protects the property from future development, and was the first step in creating a nature preserve and public walking trail system that accesses sweeping, unobstructed views of the San Juans and beyond.
The Preservation Trust will share ownership responsibilities with the Land Bank, which will manage public access on the preserve. Input from the public will guide the creation of primitive walking trails and other preserve management guidelines. The complex transaction included a significant price reduction from Jean Walkinshaw and Martha Wheeler, the previous landowners, who approached the Land Bank and the Preservation Trust early in 2004 to discuss options for conserving the property.
“We had decided that we would sell the property, but in our hearts we just did not want to see it developed,” said Jean Walkinshaw, a longtime San Juan Islander and member of the Preservation Trust. “Martha [Wheeler] and I originally bought the land in 1978 because we treasured the wildflowers, old trees, splendid hiking and views that the property offers. We always thought that we had something special here, and that the public might also enjoy the same experience. We’re so pleased that the Preservation Trust and the Land Bank felt the same way.”
“Jean Walkinshaw and Martha Wheeler, along with their husbands, must be thanked for protecting this land,” said Dennis Shaffer, Director of the Land Bank at the time of the transaction. “Without their generosity and relentless enthusiasm for protecting this beautiful place, the deal would never have come together.”
The Preservation Trust then reached an agreement with a landowner adjacent to the newly acquired property to purchase an additional 13 acres on the eastern flank of Mount Ben. Combined, these properties create a nature preserve that will protect nearly 35 acres of rolling meadows, undeveloped ridgelines, mixed-aged forests (including old-growth specimens), and exceptional views of islands, mountains, surrounding waters, and the city of Victoria.