Get up the nerve to serve, preserve Ebey’s Reserve | Rockin’ a Hard Place

When you live on the Rock, it is almost impossible not to volunteer. Hardly a day goes by without some opportunity to do something good for someone around here.

When you live on the Rock, it is almost impossible not to volunteer. Hardly a day goes by without some opportunity to do something good for someone around here.

That’s especially true if you are “retired” as I am and therefore, in the minds of those still working for a living, “have the time” to lend a hand. That’s why, willing or even not so, most of us “get involved.”  I call this the Rock’s baptismal covenant.

Note the quote marks I used above: “retired,” “have the time” and “get involved.” Those are code words in volunteer-speak; they mean “able and available to work for free.”

Don’t get me wrong. Getting involved and doing good works for free is one of the best things about this place. It’s how we continue to stitch together and grow a loving, concerned and committed community from those here for decades and new refugees from America who arrive on our shores. It also gets you a bunch of new friends and invitations to a lot of potlucks.

Back in 2010, only a year or so after I washed up on Penn Cove, a tired, poor, wretched mass yearning to breathe free, I attended an Ebey’s Forever Conference at Camp Casey. I was dazzled by the fiercely committed folks who spoke with such passion about the efforts made by so many for so long to preserve our area’s way of life and rural character.

I distinctly remember one speaker showing a slide of what Ebey’s Prairie might look like today if the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve had not been created in the 1970s. Instead of the peaceful vista of mountains, trees and gentle farmland we see today from Admiralty Inlet to Penn Cove, the slide showed two-story condos from sea to shining sea, broken up by the inevitable tennis courts and swimming pools. It could have happened; we came very close.

I was so inspired that, when I walked out of the conference and bumped into Nancy Conard, Coupeville’s now-retired mayor, I immediately volunteered to join the brand-new Ebey’s Landing Historic Preservation Commission, then being organized.

Mayor Nancy was glad to have me and the other volunteers; nine members were needed in a hurry to get the HPC launched. I have served as HPC’s chair since our first meeting in 2011.

The HPC was the result of years of effort by Coupeville and Island County to bring structure, consistency and predictability to the planning process for all development within the boundaries of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

Its mandate is broader that just “historic preservation.” Of course, we do review proposed changes to historic structures, but much more often we review new home, remodeling, commercial and land-use projects. We follow design guidelines approved by the town, the county and the reserve.

Stated simply, HPC’s goal is to “preserve the preserve” by deciding if a project meets our guidelines and, in our opinion, “fits” with the character of our special place. Our purpose is not to hinder development or dictate what folks may build. It’s to assure that the Reserve evolves and grows as gently, thoughtfully and carefully as possible.

Within the past couple months, terms of several of our original HPC members appointed by the town have expired, and Coupeville needs a few brave souls to step up and take their places. The requirements are minimal:  You should live in town and have some knowledge of architecture and history. But more importantly you should have a real passion to preserve the reserve and our way of life.

Have I twisted your arm hard enough? Then please make a call to Coupeville Town Hall at 360-678-4461 and let our new Mayor Molly Hughes know you’d like to be considered. I have a feeling she’d be glad to hear from you.


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