In 2001, after working several years to protect the spectacular shoreline, marsh and upland forest on the southwest shore of Guemes Island, an extraordinarily generous gift from Priscilla (“Patsy”) Bullitt Collins enabled the Preservation Trust to purchase the 35-acre Demopoulous Marsh, ensuring its permanent preservation.
For more than two decades before the preserve’s acquisition, there had been strong interest in preserving the ecological and open-space values of the marsh. State agencies such as the Washington Department of Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources, along with local and regional conservation organizations, environmental groups, and the Guemes Island community, searched for ways to protect this property. Through challenges and disappointments along the way, a trio of dedicated islanders—Ann Magnano, Delphine Haley, and Ferdi Businger—held on to the vision of this beautiful place becoming a sanctuary. When they presented the idea to Patsy Collins, she saw it too, and donated $1.5 million to the Preservation Trust to make that vision a reality.
At the time of the gift, Patsy said:
“I’ve always felt it was a wonderful thing to board the ferry to Orcas and look over and see that beautiful site on Guemes. The entrance to the San Juan Islands should be this kind of place.”
“She made it happen, and we couldn’t be more grateful,” remembers Bob Myhr, the executive director of the Preservation Trust at that time. “The marsh had been high on our list of key conservation properties in the San Juans, but our efforts at raising the funds and finding a way to negotiate the purchase were stalled until Patsy offered her support and commitment.”
This preserve, which we call the “Peach Preserve” in honor of Patsy’s childhood nickname, includes a 13-acre freshwater wetland, 2,100 feet of shoreline on Guemes channel, and a hillside of dense second-growth conifer forest. Scotch broom is a persistent invasive on the Peach Preserve, but Preservation Trust volunteers and staff have been working to eradicate it from the preserve and re-establish a native plant community on the sand berm between the beach and the marsh. University of Washington graduate research has been conducted at this site to test the effectiveness of a variety of control methods for the invasive broom.
Seen from Anacortes, the Peach Preserve stands out as an oasis of open space and lush green. It is this distant view that first impressed Patsy. “I’ve always felt it was a wonderful thing to board the ferry to Orcas and look over and see that beautiful site on Guemes,” she said. “The entrance to the San Juans should be this kind of place.”
Sadly, Patsy Collins passed away in 2003, but she left behind a tremendous natural legacy throughout the northwest. Nowhere is this more evident than on Guemes Island.
Peach Preserve is open to the public. Click here for visitor information and trail map.