09/30/2006: "Guest Column"
By Lincoln Bormann
As my first full summer in the Islands gives way to fall, and visitors retreat to the mainland, I am taking stock.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the largest gathering in Orcas' history; the Rally to Save Turtleback. For a moment, we all set aside other things, drank wine and laughed and looked out across the Coffelt's fields to the mountain. The day was glorious, and spirits were high with the feeling that our goal was within reach, that we were unified in a single purpose. Any lingering doubts I may have had about buying Turtleback, or its staggering cost, seemed to evaporate in the crowd's enthusiasm. Truly, it was a celebration.
There will be other gatherings leading to the closing deadline of November 15. And the funding gap remains daunting. Fall will be the time for people to step up to save us from what could be a very long winter. Lights up on the mountain's ridgelines no doubt will not warm us much. Hint: Write your check to the Preservation Trust now!
A week later, I found myself on Lopez to celebrate the official opening of the Land Bank Fisherman Bay Spit Preserve. While the event was attended by only a couple of dozen folks, it was no less significant than the Rally. The Spit has been a focal point for Lopezians through history. The salmon reef net fishing boats moored off shore are descendants of the first boats used by native peoples hundreds of years ago. Seemingly, the fires of the Coast Salish created actual landforms on the Spit itself, obscured now by wind, sand and water. Today, anyone who pleases can wander this site and perhaps envision fish drying on cedar racks or the gathering of berries and roots to be packed into wooden boxes or baskets.
The Spit was protected through the dedicated efforts of many people. It remains the largest purchase the Land Bank has made to date (state funding reimbursed about a third of the cost). But it was an impassioned plea by a woman in honor of her lost husband that cinched the deal. It was her will that staved off the inevitable partitioning of the property into private fiefdoms. Rita, we are grateful.
That same week I spent a morning at American Camp and the property recently acquired by the Land Bank to the north. With a small group, we were looking for remnants of the old military road. After several hours and many rose and hawthorn scratches we conceded defeat. Not surprising, given that many others have embarked on the same search. But standing in the field by Cattle Point Road and looking toward Mt. Baker in the east, I could see a beginning too. A place where perhaps new agricultural fields will emerge together with a trail heading toward Friday Harbor. While a portion of the property will be sold to help reimburse future acquisitions, the view will remain unspoiled and perhaps even renewed with flowers or vegetable beds or native grasses bending to a spring rain. Time will tell.
Now as we rush to finish our dry weather projects and get our summer crops into jars or freezer bags, remember these events and add your thoughts to this vision. They are from our past, but will always be a part of our future.