Lifestyle

North Whidbey man donates 50 acres to Whidbey Camano Land Trust in honor of his wife

George Fairfax stands next to the sign marking the Del Fairfax Preserve, which is open to the public. He donated 50 acres to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust in honor of his wife, Del Fairfax. She died in 2006. - Photo by Cheryl Lowe
George Fairfax stands next to the sign marking the Del Fairfax Preserve, which is open to the public. He donated 50 acres to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust in honor of his wife, Del Fairfax. She died in 2006.
— image credit: Photo by Cheryl Lowe

In 2007 Dr. George Fairfax of North Whidbey donated 50 acres on Zylstra Road to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust in order to preserve it in its natural state forever. The spectacular property, valued at $660,000 in 2007, is composed of 13 acres of pasture and 37 acres of mature forest land.

The gift was made in the loving memory of Dr. Fairfax’s wife of 56 years, Del, who died three and a half years ago, in 2006.

The donated land, called the Del Fairfax Forest Preserve, has an entrance sign, and the public is welcome to walk or jog on the well-maintained trails.

“It’s open to all for that type of activity,” said Fairfax.

No bicycles, motorized vehicles, or horses are allowed. Dogs must be kept on leash and cleaned up after.

Fairfax, 83, is happy he made the donation. “Money doesn’t interest me anymore. Nature interests me more.”

“Del was a wonderful wife and mother,” he said. “She was a real family person. We raised six children. My five (surviving) children supported my idea of donating the land.”

The Fairfax’s lost one of their sons in a motorcycle accident when he was 19.

Fairfax said he didn’t know about the Land Trust at the time Del died. He approached Island County about the possibility of giving the 50 acres to them, but “they said it was too much for them.” Island County officials did recommend, however, that he talk to Pat Powell of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. That was the perfect contact, and the deal was subsequently done. Today, the 50 acres is a preserve owned and managed by the Land Trust.

Dr. Fairfax said, “I always saw this as a wildlife area. I never want it developed. It’s for the owls, hawks and deer, all of which I’ve just recently seen here.”

The property has been in an open space classification with Island County since the 1970s, he said.

Fairfax and his father purchased the land in 1972, from the Simon Koorn estate. Koorn had owned it since the late 1920s, when he cleared the back pasture and farmed.

“I sold hay, but I didn’t do any logging. I considered logging at one time, and I had bought the place as an investment originally. But my real desire was always to preserve it,” said Fairfax. “Thoughts I once had about developing the property never got beyond the thinking stage.”

He received tax deductions for making the gift.

Fairfax, who grew up on a dairy farm in Puyallup, had his most recent retirement in 1990, when he stopped his private obstetrics practice in Oak Harbor. Before that, he had a 30-year Navy career, which took him to such places as Guam, the Philippines, Oakland, Bremerton and Oak Harbor.

Fairfax was a medical corpsman in World War II. He married Del while in college at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. He then graduated from the University of Washington Medical School.

“It was the time of the Korean War, and the government wanted me. So I finished medical school and then did my internship with the Navy,” he said. “Then I stayed in the Navy.”

He said the neighbors “look out for things” on what was formerly his land and join the Land Trust sponsored work parties, helping to cut brush and clear branches. As for the newly reseeded pasture, a farmer gets the hay in exchange for keeping it cut.

If you want to learn more about the property, contact the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. www.wclt.org, or call (360) 222-3310.

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