Island County officials and Whidbey Camano Land Trust staff say they will pursue a slightly different ownership strategy for the Trillium Community Forest, located just north of Freeland.
The Land Trust will remain the landowner and the county will acquire a restrictive conservation easement on the property.
The Trillium Community Forest, over a square mile of contiguous forest providing non-motorized recreation on an established trail system, was acquired and preserved from development by the Land Trust with broad community support. The public will see no change on the ground; the area remains open for walking, mountain biking, equestrian and nature enjoyment purposes.
Originally, the idea was that the county would acquire the property from the Land Trust, which would hold the restrictive conservation easement. However, as the steering committee worked on the draft management plan for the Forest, both the Land Trust and Island County came to recognize there was more management work and oversight required than they originally envisioned. The partners agreed the Island County Parks Department was not in a financial situation to take on fee ownership at this point in time, even with financial support from the Land Trust.
“This new ownership strategy is the best way to ensure the Trillium Community Forest is protected and kept natural, and open for appropriate recreational users,” county Public Works Director Bill Oakes said in a press release. “The county and Land Trust will continue to work together to promote what is in the best interest of the Community Forest and community.”
As an example of this continued collaboration, Land Trust Executive Director Pat Powell said, “We recently collaborated on submitting two state grant proposals that will increase public access to the Community Forest. The grants, if secured, will provide funds to acquire and develop a safely located parking lot for horse trailers and larger vehicles, and a new parking area and trail system where people with mobility impairment can more easily be outside in nature.”
A meeting will be scheduled in the next few months for the public to review and comment on the draft management plan.
To learn more about the Trillium Community Forest, visit wclt.org.