News

Reserve gets $1 million

The Ferry House and surrounding acreage is one property to be protected - File photo
The Ferry House and surrounding acreage is one property to be protected
— image credit: File photo

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve is slotted to receive $1 million dollars from the federal government for protection of land within the 17,000-acre Central Whidbey reserve.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) recently announced that the money for the reserve is part of the $40.8 million she was able to earmark for Washington state projects within the Interior Appropriations bill that represents a compromise between the House and Senate versions.

Alex Glass, a spokesperson for Murray, said that it’s almost a certainty that the $19.1 billion bill will pass without changes to the funding earmarked for Washington projects.

Rob Harbour, manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, said he is “very, very excited” about the news. He says Murray, Rep. Rick Larsen, (D-Everett) and Sen. Maria Cantwell, (D-Wash.), have all been very supportive of the reserve and worked hard to get the funding.

Harbour says the money will mostly go towards completing major land acquisitions projects from the last couple of years.

In an agreement with the Ebey’s Landing Reserve, the Nature Conservancy of Washington went into debt purchasing 407 acres of woods and other land in the heart of the reserve last year for $5 million. Robert Yenney Pratt, who spent his youth in Central Whidbey and who inherited the large stretches of land, bequeathed the popular bluff trail area at Ebey’s Landing and surrounding areas, totalling 127 acres, to the Nature Conservancy in his will. He died in 1999 at age 84.

A large portion of the money will go towards paying off the Nature Conservancy’s debt. “They should be clear” of debt after receiving the funds, Harbour said.

The Nature Conservancy’s bluff trail, beach and forest is probably the most visited preserve owned by the non-profit conservation group in the state, according to Harbour.

With the remaining portion of the $1 million, Harbour says he hopes to purchase “easement” or development rights for the south portion of the Smith Prairie, which is at the corner of Parker and Morris roads. Au Sable, a Christian environmental group, purchased the former state game farm land with the hope that the reserve may purchase development rights on the property someday.

The purchase of development rights, Harbour said, is a great way to protect land from development. The land owners keep the land but cannot build any type of development on the property. This fits into the reserve’s mission of protecting land without owning large areas outright.

Part of the funding may also go toward buying development rights for the 140-acre historic Jenne Farm, which is smack in the middle of the reserve. Coupeville residents Joyce Peterson and Fran Einterz bought the farm to protect the farmland from developers, but Harbour says they are counting on selling the development rights to the reserve.

Harbour says the reserve is also working on purchasing a trail easement through the Jenne Farm for a walking trail that will one day run from Rhododendron Park to Fort Ebey Park.

In addition, Harbour said the funding may also help with a project to stabilize the historic and unusual Ferry House. The structure, which was featured in the movie Snow Falling on Cedars, has a fascinating history.

Unfortunately, Harbour says it’s in danger of simply “melting away.”

You can reach features editor Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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