Submitted by San Juan County Land Bank
There’s a lot going on at the San Juan County Land Bank’s Zylstra Lake Preserve this summer and beyond. This 285-acre preserve was acquired in 2017 with goals of providing public access to the land and water, supporting wildlife conservation and enabling compatible farming activities. Although not yet open to the public, the months ahead hold a number of opportunities to visit Zylstra Lake and get involved with planning.
The preserve is scheduled to be open for year-round regular public access in May 2020. Until then, islanders can satisfy their curiosity at a number of summer events. Free guided walks of the preserve are scheduled for every Sunday in July. Group sizes will be small, so anyone interested is encouraged to sign up early to claim a spot. On Sunday, July 21, the San Juan Preservation Trust is offering a guided “forest immersion” walk to its members. And for those who miss the July events, an all-day open house is scheduled for Sept. 7, with land bank staff and other experts on hand to answer questions. These events are great opportunities to share your ideas for the preserve.
There’s even more happening behind the scenes. Biologists are currently inventorying birds, fish, wetlands and other important features. Staff and consultants are assessing farm infrastructure, and developing plans for long-deferred dam repairs. These investigations will help answer questions critical to future management, such as: Are there sensitive areas of the preserve for breeding birds and wintering waterfowl? What kinds of fish are present, and could conditions be improved to support native trout or salmon? Is the lake safe for swimming? What are some options for managing the farm fields?
Answering these and other questions will lay the groundwork for creating a preserve management plan that includes safe, low-impact public access. As resource assessments conclude this fall, the public will be invited to hear the results, as well as share their hopes, ideas and questions about future management. Public input will inform the creation of a management plan, with many opportunities to comment along the way. The land bank appreciates everyone’s patience and thoughtful input throughout this process.
To learn more about upcoming events, check out the land bank’s events calendar at sjclandbank.org/events, call Tanja at 360-378-4402 or just stop by the office at 328 Caines St. in Friday Harbor.
Zylstra Lake Preserve in San Juan Valley was acquired by the Land Bank in 2017. The San Juan Preservation Trust was a key partner in facilitating the purchase and obtaining grant funds.
November 2019 – Resource assessments are completed and presented to the public. Public input is solicited on future management.
February 2020 – A draft management plan is written and presented to the public.
Public input is solicited on future management.
May 2020 – A final management plan is approved.
The preserve is open to the public.