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Trillium Woods victory near for Land Trust

Equestrians tour Trillium Woods earlier this summer. The 664 acres of land will be secured for public use when the Whidbey Camano Land Trust reaches its $4.2 million goal, which is expected later this month.  - News-Times file photo
Equestrians tour Trillium Woods earlier this summer. The 664 acres of land will be secured for public use when the Whidbey Camano Land Trust reaches its $4.2 million goal, which is expected later this month.
— image credit: News-Times file photo

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust is on the threshold of its greatest achievement ever — raising $4.2 million over seven months to purchase 664 acres of forested land on Whidbey Island.

Though there is still $600,000 to raise by Sept. 10, Land Trust Executive Director Pat Powell was certain Tuesday morning that the goal would be achieved.

“We are confident,” she said in a phone interview. “Many people didn’t think we could do this. ... It was an audacious goal.”

One key to the success was a few big donors who waited to match amounts raised by others. In essence, they were sitting on the sidelines and watching to determine community support for the “Trillium Woods” project.

Powell said the big donors were impressed as over 1,000 separate donations rolled in, many from clubs and organizations representing numerous individuals.

“It was by far the most money we’ve ever tried to raise,” Powell said. “And it was an amazingly short time frame.”

The effort was extended when the initial June 10 fundraising target was missed, but completion in September would make it only a seven-month effort.

“Usually something like this takes 18 months, with six months for planning,” said the veteran fundraiser.

The final $600,000 will be reached largely through large donations already lined up as pledges come through.

The property, located off Highway 525 between Greenbank and Freeland, was once slated for development. It’s presently owned by a bank, but Powell said the sale to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust is scheduled to close on Sept. 22.

The Land Trust has purchased numerous pieces of property on Whidbey and Camano islands over the last quarter century, but Trillium Woods is unique because of its size. That’s what compelled the risky public effort to raise $4.2 million in such a short time, and during a recession.

“It’s pretty amazing because of its immense size for an island,” Powell said of the 664 acres. “Nowadays 40 acres is a big piece.”

With fundraising nearly wrapped up, the Land Trust will secure the property’s future. “We need the help of everyone to make permanent protection a reality,” said Tom Cahill, president of the trust board, in a news release.

The land will be donated to Island County, but not until a conservation easement and site management plan are worked out to assure it will never be developed.

Island County has no money to manage park property, so Powell said the trust will pay for planning costs and gating access areas to keep motorized vehicles out. They’ll provide roughly $50,000 to the county for management, but more importantly work with volunteer groups to see that the property is maintained as a natural area where people can hike, bike and ride horses.

“The county won’t be spending any of their dollars,” Powell said. “We worked this out knowing they don’t have money for parks.”

The Land Trust is still looking for donations to help raise the final $600,000. For information visit www.savetheforestnow.org or call 360-222-3310.

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