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

Top 10 Wildcat grads prepare for rest of their lives

Today marks a significant milestone for Oak Harbor High School students who… Continue reading

The great Oak Harbor High School paper caper

Oak Harbor High School seniors discarded their old assignments in the traditional… Continue reading

Coupeville’s 2019 graduates receive diplomas, look ahead to the future

Four years. Four years of homework, friendships, classrooms lectures, competitions and the… Continue reading

June offers wide variety of art shows from woolly sheep to whales

Artists are on exhibit at OAK HARBOR LIBRARY in June, featuring paintings,… Continue reading

Coupeville top 10 seniors reflect on high school, look to future

They’ve turned their tassels, thrown their caps and likely put their gowns… Continue reading

A hoot of religious irreverence

Delightful Dark Ages dark comedy ‘Incorruptible’ conquers Playhouse

Relay for Life

This year’s cancer research fundraiser was held 6 p.m. Friday to noon… Continue reading

Flying the flag for Memorial Day

Members of a Search and Rescue crew from Naval Air Station Whidbey… Continue reading

Downtown building transformed into student art gallery

Oak Harbor art teachers have long been searching for another way to… Continue reading

Summertime bites sips

Cool down, fill up or satisfy a sweet tooth with these delicious food, drink recipes

Whidbey’s shrimp season mighty small and plenty busy

Local waters awash in thousands of buoys, hundreds of boaters and dinner for dozens