News

Trust to buy Bocker Reserve

Whidbey Camano Land Trust entered into an agreement Monday to purchase the 33-acre property from Seattle Pacific University.

The Land Trust wants to buy the property, known as the Bocker Environmental Reserve, because it is home to one of the last remaining populations of the golden paintbrush wildflower.

The property is located just north of the Casey Conference Center in the heart of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

“We are thrilled to have this incredible opportunity to take over the protection of a rare native plant population that happens to grow in a truly spectacular waterfront setting within the nationally recognized Ebey’s Landing Reserve,” said Pat Powell, executive director of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, in a news release.

Golden paintbrush, or castilleja levisecta, is a yellow plant that is listed as federally threatened and at the state level as an endangered plant species. It was once commonly found on the prairies and various islands throughout the region.

To help pay for the property, the Land Trust, partnering with The Nature Conservancy and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, received a $1.5 million recovery land acquisition grant last year from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

With the purchase agreement, the Whidbey Camano Land Trust needs to raise an additional $750,000 to pay for the $2.25 million property. Powell said she is looking to people and groups interested in rare plants and preservation for help. She hopes to have the money raised by the end of the year and finalize the purchase in early 2005.

Once the money is raised, $2 million will be used to buy the land and $200,000 will be put into an endowment. The interest earned from the endowment will help pay for management of the property. The remaining $50,000 will help pay costs associated with the purchase.

Then a management plan will be formed to help restore golden paintbrush populations on the property. The Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the US Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service are some of the organizations that will have input in the management plan.

“Since the beginning of our ownership of Camp Casey, we have worked hard to be good citizens of Whidbey Island and good neighbors and stewards of this property,” said SPU President Philip Eaton in the news release. “We are delighted the Land Trust will continue to protect it in perpetuity, not only for the golden paintbrush but also for Elbey’s Landing Reserve and other conservation efforts.”

Camp Casey will also benefit from the planned sale. SPU plans to put the money into the nearby Casey Conference Center, which SPU officials want to make more financially viable. The Casey Conference Center is a year round retreat center for school, social agencies and churches.

Powell said that the paintbrush population on the property declined in recent years due to the appearance of trees and bushes. Since golden paintbrush doesn’t thrive in a shaded environment, those plants would have to be removed. She added that the area will have to be fenced to help discourage animals from eating the plants.

The plant’s habitat has been lost to residential, agricultural and commercial development over the years.

Of the 11 remaining golden paintbrush populations remaining in the world, five are found on Whidbey Island with the Bocker Reserve’s population being the largest. That is a reason groups wants to see the property preserved.

“It’s by far the largest population on the island with the best chance for survival,” Powell said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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