SAMISH ISLAND — From a forest featuring 100-year-old trees to pristine shoreline, the public got a look on Saturday at the Skagit Land Trust’s newly expanded Samish Island Conservation Area.
About 100 people signed up for the open house, the land trust’s first large in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The open house included guided trail tours and chats with Skagit Land Trust staff members.
The Samish Island Conservation Area now protects about 100 acres and about a half mile of shoreline, including 2,300 feet on Padilla Bay and 900 feet on Alice Bay.
During the pandemic, volunteers worked in small groups to build a footpath and add native plants to the 34-acre Samish Flower Farm property, which the land trust purchased in 2019.
The new trail, just over 1/3 of a mile, winds through a forest that provides nesting, roosting, perching and foraging habitat for many birds.
Bow residents and land trust members Linda Castell and Robert Huet saw the new trail for the first time on Saturday.
“I’m really happy they’ve been able to keep this piece of land,” Huet said. “It’s a reminder of what this place was. Youngsters growing up get to see natural land.”
The two said they were among the 500 donors who contributed funds to help the land trust complete purchase of the property.
Samish Island resident Charlene Day said the community’s fundraising efforts helped save the property from becoming a luxury home development.
“It was just critical to save it from being developed,” she said.
Down at the beach, guests explored nearly a half mile of Padilla Bay shoreline, accessible by trail from Samish Island Road.
The land trust this spring purchased 50 more acres at the entrance to Samish Island, permanently protecting an additional 1,500 feet of shoreline on Padilla Bay along with a slough, freshwater wetlands, a salt marsh and tidelands.
The waters are important foraging and shelter area for young fish, invertebrates and migratory birds, according to the land trust. The area supports the second largest eelgrass meadow in the western U.S., supporting herring, crab and juvenile Chinook salmon.
During the wintertime, visitors can see many migratory birds such as ducks, geese, swans and seabirds, said Tim Manns, a land trust board member and birding expert.
Kari Odden, the land trust’s conservation project manager, said she enjoyed seeing visitors at the conservation area on Saturday. At one point, there was a large family reunion and kids running around and finding crabs and snails, she said.