Preservation Trust, County Land Bank must raise $2.5 million to acquire San Juan Island Lake

Acting swiftly to thwart a proposed housing development, The San Juan Preservation Trust and the San Juan County Land Bank have reached an agreement to purchase the 313-acre Zylstra Lake property in San Juan Valley on San Juan Island for $3.0 million. With $500,000 committed to the project by the County aerial22_mlsLand Bank, this public-private partnership must now raise the remaining $2.5 million before December 2018 or face losing the property to foreclosure.

To generate these funds, The Preservation Trust and County Land Bank will work closely with a number of partners to pursue grant opportunities and seek a buyer for a 30-acre farmstead located within the property. Once grant decisions are made in early 2017, the partnership will determine whether or not it will have the funding it will need to proceed. It may then become necessary for The Preservation Trust to launch a community fundraising campaign; in the meantime, the organizations will not actively seek private donations for this project.

Located just three miles west of the Town of Friday Harbor, this property includes the 52-acre Zylstra Lake, a second 9-acre lake, and more than 200 acres of open pastures and productive farmland with sweeping views over San Juan Valley. To fend off a pending offer from a developer interested in building a number of homes around the lake, the sellers approached The Preservation Trust and County Land Bank with favorable terms that include some time to identify funding sources.

aerial19_mlsUnder the partnership’s current vision, the 161-acre “Upper Lake” parcel (which includes the larger lake) would eventually be owned by the County Land Bank and managed primarily for open space and recreation. While a management plan for this property would be subject to public process, uses could include walking trails, a place to launch small non-motorized boats (sailboats, canoes, etc.), and San Juan Island’s only publicly-accessible swimming lake. The 122-acre “Lower Lake” parcel (which includes the smaller lake) would be owned by The Preservation Trust and managed to provide agricultural opportunities, a public trail, and year-round stream flow in False Bay Creek for salmon and native cutthroat trout. If successful, fish biologists confirm that fly fishing could one day be possible in San Juan Valley.

With $500,000 already committed by the County Land Bank, The Preservation Trust has accepted lead responsibility for raising the remaining $2.5 million plus interest payments, excise taxes and fundraising expenses. The two organizations will share interim management costs, and will work together on grant applications and any sale of assets on the property (including the farmstead and possibly water rights). An initial $300,000 down payment was made on December 15, 2015, and the sellers of the property have provided the partnership with a $2,700,000 loan with 4% financing that is secured by a deed of trust on the property. Three $900,000 payments will be due in December of 2016, 2017 and 2018. A default on these loan payments would lead to foreclosure.

The property will not be open to the public until the loan is fully paid off and a management plan is approved.