Historical Reserve looks to sell farmland
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
June 14, 2011 · 2:03 PM
More than 10 years ago, the National Park Service acquired more than 300 acres of farmland within Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve to prevent it from being developed.
Officials from the National Park Service and Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve are now looking for a way to find owners for the five parcels of farm land while protecting even more land within the confines of the 17,000-acre reserve.
“The intent is to put properties into private ownership, which has always been the goal,” said Mark Preiss, manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.
Reserve officials have to find potential owners first. A meeting will take place Thursday, June 16 from 6:30 p.m. at the Reuble Barn on Fort Casey Road to hear about a potential to exchange conservation rights for ownership of the farm land.
He hopes to find property owners within the confines of the reserve who are willing to place conservation easements on their property in exchange for ownership of the Park Service farmland.
“We’re talking about an equal-value exchange,” Preiss said.
The National Park Service in 2000 acquired two dairy farms, which are located on Fort Casey Road, after the original owners filed for bankruptcy. Reserve officials were concerned at the time that the 305 acres would be sold and be used for non-agricultural uses.
The reserve developed its management plan and environmental impact statement in 2006, which stated the two farms should be moved into private ownership.
Preiss said this Thursday’s meeting is the first chance to find possible property owners and for the public to comment on the plan.
He said property owners, farmers and real estate agents will be invited to the public meeting.
The plan is to have some kind of deal in place by March 2012.
“For the National Park Service to own this property is not consistent with the mission of the reserve, Preiss said.
Following the June 16 meeting, National Park Service officials on June 25 will provide tours of the farmland they want to trade for conservation easements.
Farm exchange proposals are due by Aug. 16. Proposals should be mailed to National Park Service West Deputy Regional Director Rory Westberg, 909 First Ave., Seattle, WA, 98104.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.