At the entrance to Samish Island is a large tract of land. For the year that we’ve been out here there has been a For Sale sign on the 37 acres along Samish Island Road and Roney Road. Laura had commented that when we come out next time things would look very different as the property is developed. Now it seems that there is a way to save the views. We recently took a tour of the property with the Skagit Land Trust and heard about their plans for the land.
At the recent Samish Island Fourth of July Parade the Skagit Land Trust had a table set up at the community center. There they had information about upcoming tours of the property that had been for sale. Laura and I immediately signed up for a tour, which would take place the next day.
On Thursday, July 5, we met with Molly Doran of the Skagit Land Trust and two other interested island residents at the sign at the entrance to the island.
Molly said that the land trust had entered into an agreement to purchase the property from the estate of the deceased owners. 34 acres would be placed under a conservation easement and the remaining three acres where the houses are located on the property would remain with the heirs. The property includes waterfront property and some of the oldest forest land on the island.
We walked up the road toward the property. Our first stop would be the waterfront property. As we walked along Molly pointed out the forested areas that were already under an easement. The new purchase would be added to that acreage.
We reached the access road to the beach and walked down. Molly pointed out the large trees and features of the property.
We reached the ridge of driftwood that separates the road from the rocky beach. Several small cabins/cottages line the waterfront at this point. This was the first time I’d seen these up close.
We walked eastward along the curve of the beach. Molly told us about one early settler family, the Squires, and how their private dike converted Samish from an island into a peninsula. At one point the Squires owned all of this land, most of which was wetlands. A narrow channel, Samish Slough, connected Alice Bay to Padilla Bay. The dike reclaimed farmland, but radically altered the dynamics of the environment. Without the currents from Samish River and the slough from Alice Bay to keep things clear, Padilla Bay has been getting shallower over the years.
Since the dike is privately held it isn’t maintained by the county’s dike commission. The elder Squires have long since passed on and the younger generation isn’t interested in maintaining the dike. Far from it. The subsequent generations of Squires have kept an eyesore at the entrance to the island. There have been drug busts, calls for domestic abuse, and just about any other crime that you could imagine. For the past year that we’ve been here squatters in broken down RVs and campers have made their home out on the flats.
The original Squire home place sits majestically at the entrance to the island. The property has been purchased by a couple that plans to do a complete restoration. At least that part of their heritage isn’t an eyesore.
The county and land trust would love to get the rest of the Squire land. There are already plans to repair the dike and possibly reestablish the channel, once again turning Samish into a true island. That’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. The Squires have no interest in selling and manage to pay just enough taxes to keep the property in their hands.
Sadly, the 34 acres the trust is hoping to buy backs right up to the Squire property and in the past there have been disputes about property lines. Molly feared for the safety of visitors along this stretch, even though it’s an interesting bit of the property.
As we walked back along the beach, Therese Ogle, one of the board members for the trust, greeted us with her dog. She is also the owner of one of the cottages on the beach.
Therese graciously allowed us to take her cable car back up to the main road, rather than walk back up the trail. We road two at a time, with Laura and me taking the first trip. It was much easier than taking a steep trail.
We sent the car back down for the next pair.
Once everyone was topside we walked back down to the main property. The property borders both Roney Road and Samish Island Road. The Roney Road area is completely wooded. Molly talked about how they might provide access to the site from this section.
Soon we reached the driveway for the main property. We walked a short way up the road. Molly pointed out various features, including the property that would be retained by the heirs.
They are calling this the “Flower Farm” because this was the first place where tulips were farmed in Skagit County. In the early 1900s Mary Brown Stewart planted tulip bulbs for her own enjoyment. Her friends and neighbors liked them so much that she started selling them. Soon she outgrew her property here and moved out to the flats near La Conner. Molly pointed out places where non-native cultivars were still growing.
It was a great tour, and we think this an excellent plan to preserve the entrance to the island. The land trust is currently seeking donations and grants to secure the property. Should that fall through, the heirs retain the right to sell to a developer. Laura and I have already decided to make a donation in memory of her parents, who loved this island. More information can be found on the land trust’s website. I hope they are able to meet their goal and preserve this bit of island history.