Habitat restoration underway at preserve

  • Friday, December 7, 2018 9:49pm
  • Life
Photo by Ron Newberry.
                                Community volunteer Dick Hall participates in a tree planting work party at the Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s Silliman Preserve on Nov. 17.

Photo by Ron Newberry. Community volunteer Dick Hall participates in a tree planting work party at the Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s Silliman Preserve on Nov. 17.

By Ron Newberry

For the Whidbey News-Times

Even though he lives in Snohomish, Tom Silliman still manages to keep close tabs on a piece of South Whidbey land that’s dear to his family. He’s watched restoration work transform the land and shares the progress with his sister, Becky Silliman, in Rhode Island.

Two years ago, the Silliman siblings donated eight acres to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust with the hope that such improvements would take place.

Most of the preserve is intact forest and wetlands along Maxwelton Creek, and the creek itself flows through a corner of the property.

But the most prominent portion, where a small chicken farm once stood by the road corner, was covered by invasive blackberry bushes when the land trust acquired it.

That has since been cleared to make way for hundreds of native trees and shrubs.

The plantings started in the fall but are still in the early stages. The land trust plans for more than 1,300 native plants to go into the ground. It’s all part of the organization’s goal to enhance fish and wildlife habitat and help protect a functioning wetland system in the Maxwelton watershed.

“That has been our dream,” Tom Silliman said.

The Silliman siblings have fond childhood memories of the land, which was once owned by their grandfather, Henry Silliman.

They remember exploring the property as children and catching fish and crayfish in the creek.

Tom and Becky Silliman purchased separate pieces of the land in 1991 from John Patton, planning to one day to return it to a more natural state.

“Growing up in my generation, we had pretty much free run of the whole area,” Tom Silliman said. “We came to appreciate everything about it. It was paradise for us. That kind of set the stage of us reacquiring the property later from the Pattons.”

“It was always our intention, based on growing up in paradise, to preserve that property.”

Community volunteers have been busy helping restore the land. The property is being planted with native willows, Douglas fir, big leaf maple, salmonberry, thimbleberry and snowberry.

“Getting it back to native South Whidbey forest is our goal,” said Ryan Elting, land trust conservation director. “We want to increase native habitat in that area for fish and wildlife.”

The restoration is being funded by a legacy gift from Ned and Betty Lowry, a grant from the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and a donation from the Whidbey Island Garden Tour.

The Silliman Preserve is located near the corner of French and Maxwelton roads, –across from the Little Brown Church.

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust is a nonprofit nature conservation organization. For more information, visit www.wclt.org, email info@wclt.org or call 360-222-3310.

More in Life

Come fly a kite: Annual Kite Festival is Sept. 21-22 at Camp Casey

Whidbey Island has a reputation among kite-flyers. The wind presents a real… Continue reading

Skilled sewing to be on display at Senior Bees quilt show

Oak Harbor Senior Center artists create quilts for the community

Guide offers tips for ‘Hiking Close to Home

Washington state is known for its flannel-wearing, IPA-drinking, nature-loving residents, and Whidbey… Continue reading

Ryan’s House for Youth celebrating 10 years of service

Youth homelessness might be a hidden problem in Island County, but there’s… Continue reading

From the minds of kindergartners: New-to-school kids share observations about what to expect

Amalie Provoncha, 5 How do you feel about starting kindergarten? I don’t… Continue reading

Service dogs compete in ‘Puppy Olympics’

With tails wagging and ears perked, eager canine “athletes” dashed and demonstrated… Continue reading

Bug guy gives bird talk

An insect ecologist will be discussing an order of birds that was… Continue reading

Ryan and the giant pumpkin: Coupeville resident grows half-ton gourd

Lying in a Central Whidbey garden, among large green leaves, was what… Continue reading

Art & About | Whidbey Island’s September art events

Rocks and gemstones will be on display for the RAVEN ROCKS GALLERY’s… Continue reading

Most Read