By Susan Brandzel
Eavesdrop on tourist conversations on the Bainbridge Island ferry and you will often hear visitors proclaim, “It’s so green!”
Open, green space is indeed one of the many attributes that make Bainbridge so beautiful and unique.
But since 1996, the number of undeveloped, 10-plus-acre parcels has dropped from 96 to just 35. And that number continues to decline.
Growth and construction seem to be inevitable in the Pacific Northwest. And Bainbridge is no exception. But despite appreciating the importance of ensuring sufficient housing for residents, many islanders are concerned about the diminishing forests and meadows.
To counterbalance the development, Bainbridge Island Land Trust has launched a new capital campaign— called Stand for the Land— seeking $5 million to acquire and preserve five to six island properties. Its goal? To protect natural habitats that will be impossible to replace once they are gone.
“Historically, we would find a piece of land we wanted to preserve and we would fundraise for it,” said Jane M. Stone, the Land Trust’s executive director. “We realize now, we need to act even more quickly.”
Stone explained that the Land Trust is currently pursuing financing directly with property sellers to allow for immediate transfer of ownership, arranging for payment over time. This process ensures immediate protections from development.
As part of the fundraising for those payments, Stand for the Land is in the midst of a challenge grant. A small group of island donors have agreed to match all campaign contributions through March 31, dollar for dollar, up to $500,000, potentially yielding $1 million.
To date, the Stand for the Land campaign has acquired three properties. The first, Jablonko Preserve, includes a woodland region next to
the Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve. The second, called Cougar Creek Preserve, is home to a rich diversity of habitats in the Old Mill Road neighborhood, including some of the largest cedar trees on the island. And the most recent acquisition, Miller-Kirkman Preserve, is comprised of 13 acres on Little Manzanita Bay with stream frontage plus an unaltered salt marsh/lagoon.
“It is heartening that you can still find places that feel very wild,” Stone said. “That’s one of our goals—to keep it that way.”
An island resident for 22 years, Tina Raymond often walks the Peters Trail and Stand for the Land’s new protected property near Gazzam Lake. “I love the terrain,” Raymond reflected. “Up and down. You really can’t see many houses. It’s very quiet.”
Bainbridge Island Land Trust has strong endorsement and commitment from many island community members as well as a science-based approach to conservation. Community and science are blended together to drive protection planning. The Land Trust looks for a wide range of settings, prioritizing critical shorelines and wildlife networks—connected streams, wetlands, woods and natural areas.
As such, the beneficiaries of Stand for the Land are not just human. Because Bainbridge is home to myriad wildlife populations—birds, frogs, salmon—all of which are impacted by development, conservation properties are also picked for protection based on their animal and plant habitats.
Since its inception, Bainbridge Island Land Trust and its partners have helped conserve 1,394 acres of land on the island, more than 1,000 of which are public.The remainder represent privately owned properties protected from development in perpetuity by conservation easements held by the Land Trust.
The Land Trust was founded in 1989, long before the current growth boom in this region was even fathomable. The first piece of property protected by the trust, a pastoral parcel on the southwest corner of Highway 305 and Day Road, remains a scenic favorite. Until the Land Trust managed to safeguard it from development, it was cued up to house a golf driving range.
to house a golf driving range. It’s not just financial donations that the Bainbridge Island Land Trust receives. More than 300 people currently volunteer for the Land Trust, contributing at least 2,300 hours of their time annually. This posse of passionate preservationists includes arborists, attorneys, financial advisors, scientists, appraisers, surveyors and a lot of muscle power.
A video of the most recently secured Stand for the Land property as well as more information about the entire campaign can be found on their website. Visit bi-landtrust.org