Finally, we are on the road to purchase!

GREAT PROGRESS IS BEING MADE! At the San Juan County Land Bank meeting on Lopez on April 15, Lincoln Bormann, Director, discussed the progress that SJC Land Bank is making in discussions with the WA Dept. of Natural  Resources (DNR) to purchase Lopez Hill and Odlin South. The county currently has a 50 year lease for both Lopez Hill (400 acres leased in 2008) and Odlin South (about 100 acres leased in 2010). Friends of Lopez Hill and other residents and interested groups, especially the Lopez Community Trails Network (LCTN) have been lobbying the Land Bank to get them to put the purchase of these two properties at the top of their priority list. These properties are not permanently protected unless the county has ownership.

Late last year, the Land Bank asked LCTN to conduct a survey to see how many people on Lopez were interested in pursuing this. LCTN conducted an email campaign and survey, and demonstrated that 632 people supported the purchase. Jamie Stephens, San Juan County Councilman, also came out in strong support of the purchase on behalf of the SJCO Council. At today’s meeting, Lincoln and several of the Land Bank Commissioners expressed their strong support for the purchase of the two properties and their commitment to making it happen.

The Land Bank has initiated discussions with DNR and is preparing to make an offer to the DNR based on recent review and assessment by the Land Bank. The next step is for the DNR to make their own assessment of the properties, and then they will come back to the county with the purchase price. Lincoln said he hoped we could reach that stage by September of this year. At that point, we will know what the purchase price is and can work on determining the funding sources. This convoluted process has been a stumbling block to any serious fund raising because it’s difficult to ask for funding when you don’t know how much you need! It is really heartwarming to see this progress and the great support from the community to purchase these two large, undeveloped properties on Lopez. Stay tuned for updates!

Lopez Hill featured in Craig Romano’s “Day Hiking the San Juans and Gulf Islands”

Day Hiking the San Juans and Gulf Islands by Craig Romano, has just been published by Mountaineers Books. This is a marvelous guidebook to the beaches and trails of the islands of the southern Salish Sea.

Romano’s description of the Hill and its hikes are spot-on, and he thoughtfully recognizes the Friends of Lopez Hill and our work to protect the Hill—and he includes a photo of one of our handmade trail signs!

From Romano’s blog post about the book:

“What you will find in this book… is the most comprehensive hiking guide to the heart of the Salish Sea. I treat the region as one. Most authors split the region at the international boundary-an arbitrary line, as this region is culturally, histrionically and naturally one. I include too the jumping off points to the islands as they are also culturally, historically, naturally, and economically linked to the islands. In this book you will find 136 hikes roughly split in half between Washington and British Columbia. You’ll find hikes around Anacortes, Victoria, and Point Roberts. You’ll find hikes on Lummi, Guemes, Vendovi, Sinclair, Cypress, Lopez, Orcas, Shaw, San Juan, Jones, Stuart, Patos , Matia, and Sucia islands. You’ll find hikes on Galiano, Mayne, Pender, Salt Spring, Saturna, Princess Margaret, Sidney, Wallace, Thetis, Newcastle and Gabriola islands.

“You will find hikes in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and the new San Juan Islands National Monument. You’ll find hikes perfect for kids, dogs, bird-watching, beach walking, whale watching and of historical interest. You’ll find information on how to navigate the islands and the international border.”

Be sure to pick up this book for inspiring summer adventures. It is in stock at the Lopez Bookshop. Myself, I’m excited to use this new book to explore more of our breathtaking islands world!

Day Hiking the San Juans and Gulf Islands

Guest post by Diana Sheridan: Spring Ramble on Lopez Hill

Lopez Island sends up its praise with rolling farmlands often fenced with hedgerows of briars and Nootka rose along the roadside and with thickets backed by towering trees lining the pasture’s distant border. The wayfaring stranger or newcomer to the island, however, could easily miss this ecological treasure that offers a taste of wilderness buried in the heart of Lopez Hill on the east side of the island where it stirs to life almost secretly from a lowland forest.

Recently I joined a delightful Spring Ramble through this island jewel.  Aware that many on the island will soon face the annual summer stream of visiting guests, I would like to recommend your own ramble through this remarkable asset, one that offers quite a different experience from the sense of wild beauty and stunning views and hikes at our other incredible asset, the shoreline National Monument sites.

Where the road comes to an end, the trail begins. Curious wanderers, we soon brush by salal and a twisting limbed alder, both stretching toward the remaining shafts of sunlight. The trail shortly narrows with its closeness of green undergrowth braided together as we amble along. We pause below trees heavy with new growth where Odlin Park’s ranger, David St. George, abruptly pauses and with his astute hearing teases out the sound of a Townsend’s warbler, the first of many birds we will encounter on this day’s journey.

We meander through a staggeringly beautiful terrain of forest, observing a pleasant mix of trees quietly breathing and quietly growing. Surrounded by a grove of alder in a wetland, an occasional hemlock tree scarred by lightning strikes of yesteryear hover over stumps frayed from rot. Our steps take us over a grand root of a cedar, re-bronzed by the wear of feet traipsing this way over the generations. Another fallen tree chisels a small bridge over a wet area, perhaps eons ago a flowing streambed. Often we glance into a tangle of branches where our eyes capture the hardened curve of parasites hugging tree trunks. Or we stop abruptly to ponder a bed of bones in the lee of a tree, where once an aging deer hunkered down amidst a bitter winter storm.

Our botanists, Adrienne Adams and Beth St. George, draw our attention to a colorful array of spring wildflowers in swaths of carpeted moss, others clinging to rocks sunk along the path’s edge. Soon the names are tripping off our tongues for Siberian miner’s lettuce, foam flower, great camas, spotted coralroot and—for me, a new one—a heart-leafed twayblade, a member of the orchid family.

As the day grows shorter, we glimpse sun-slanted fingers weaving a shadowy pattern on the bark of hemlocks and firs.  We discover, as the incline increases slightly, Rocky Mountain maple trees flourishing in place of the familiar vine maple of other northwestern landscapes. Here, lacey light cascades through the larger leaves of these maples, their branches yet another haven for birds.  Wherever we wander, our intrepid ornithologist detects high above the songs of more birds darting in the afternoon light, including the Pacific-slope flycatcher, Wilson’s warbler, red-breasted nuthatch, Pacific wren and several others.

We sprint on, ascending through wind-blown, branch-gnarled native shrubs as we head toward the fresh and cool air that greets us atop Lopez Hill. More wildflowers beckon us to appreciate their sheer beauty while we rest on large flat rock formations, possibly shards of ancient sea-ledges. At last we chat with one another now that we are out of the single-file formation the path has demanded of us all afternoon. We agree we can easily imagine the incredible views of the Salish Sea that our ancestors must have cherished when this forest was clear-cut for the growing needs of the city far to the south along its shoreline.

After this brief respite, our guides, Tim Clark from the San Juan County Land Bank and Mike Moore from the Lopez Island Trails Network, lead us down through the ochre, green and darkening sienna woods. At the parking lot we offer abundant thanks and part ways, sheathed now by the tranquil beauty of one of Lopez Island’s finest treasures.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the BLM, the Friends of Lopez Hill and the San Juan County Land Bank who have persevered in preserving this natural gem, with color-coded signs and well-maintained trails. As the days of summer approach, islanders and our summer visitors will shape their own sense of place and spirit as they hike this stunning hillside of wilderness.

Diana Sheridan

June 2014