Submitted by the Skagit Land Trust
Skagit Land Trust (the Trust) has partnered with community members in a fundraising effort to purchase and permanently protect Yellow Bluff and Kelly’s Point on the southwestern corner of Guemes Island. Well-known to boaters and ferry passengers entering and leaving Anacortes, these large sandy bluffs stand as the sentinel to Guemes Channel. The 27-acre property that will be protected includes the immense bluffs, undeveloped coastal forest and over 3,000 feet of marine shoreline.
The land is on the market. Skagit Land Trust has secured an agreement with the owners allowing them until January 28th to raise $1,380,000 plus associated costs needed for the purchase and property management. If they cannot raise the funds, the property will go back up for sale. Current zoning on the property allows the majority of the uplands to be logged, and view homes, associated structures, and access roads to be built. The development could include future bank reinforcement and restricted or closed public access to the beach.
In partnership with the Washington State Department of Ecology, Skagit Land Trust has applied for a million dollar grant from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation fund. A local committee is helping to raise the remaining funds needed. The committee includes Guemes residents Joost Businger, Edie Clark, Gary Curtis, Karen Everett, Phil Fenner, Kit Harma, Marianne Kooiman, Randy and Barbara Schnabel, Sue Skillman, Edith Walden, David Wertheimer, and Ian Woofenden. Skagit Land Trust board members Carolyn Gastellum, Rusty Kuntze, Mark Linnemann and Anne Winkes also serve on the committee.
Generations of Guemes Islanders and visitors have walked along the beach at Kelly’s Point to take in the panoramic views, gaze up at the stunning cliffs, and appreciate the dynamic marine edge. Its undeveloped nature is one of the things that draws people to it. “It’s a VERY wild beach!” says committee member Phil Fenner.
Molly Doran, executive director of Skagit Land Trust says, “We are thrilled to be working with the community to protect Kelly’s Point. We want to keep it just the way it is. It is such a beautiful place and has ecological qualities that are increasingly rare in Puget Sound.”
Yellow Bluff’s immense cliffs are termed “feeder bluff exceptional” by the Washington State Department of Ecology because they contribute an exceptional amount of sand and gravel to island beaches. Geologist, Dr. Jon Riedel, explains, “Wave action has gradually cut the bluff since the end of the last ice age, as the land emerged from sea. The sand and gravel has been transported by near-shore currents to form beaches nearby, and continues to “feed” those beaches.” This sediment sustains both wildlife habitat, including the nearby Peach Preserve Wildlife Area owned by the San Juan Preservation Trust, and barrier beaches found in front of family homes. The sediment also anchors marine eelgrass meadows used by surf smelt, mollusks, crabs, and shrimp. These creatures are the food source for small fish essential to juvenile salmon, seabirds, migrating waterfowl, and orca whales.
“This would not be the same island without having access to see the natural processes that occur on this beach,” said Mark Linnemann, Skagit Land Trust board member and Guemes Island business owner. The erosion of the bluffs means that they are a geological showcase of glacial deposits, chronicling over 70,000 years of the ice age history of the North Sound region.
People wanting to donate to the protection of Yellow Bluff and Kelly’s Point should contact Skagit Land Trust or visit their website at www.skagitlandtrust.org. A challenge grant is currently available, matching gifts 1:1.
Skagit Land Trust will host a public information tour of the beach on November 18th at 1:30pm. Ground Floor Guemes and Trust staff will host a second walk on December 2nd at 10:30am with a lunch and information session at the Guemes Community Center at noon. RSVP’s are required for these events.
Skagit Land Trust is a local non-profit conservation organization that protects important natural lands for the benefit of the community and for future generations of people and wildlife. Working with communities, landowners, and partners, the Trust has protected over 8,000 acres and 36 miles of marine and freshwater shoreline in Skagit County. For more information about this project, and to RSVP for events, visit www.skagitlandtrust.org.