SJI National Park Historical Park expands

San Juan Islander - Staff

The National Park Service (NPS) and The Conservation Fund announced today the conservation and addition of a 34-acre property to San Juan Island National Historical Park (NHP) in northwest Washington. The newly protected land, located along 2,500 feet of pristine shoreline on Westcott Bay, will enable the NPS to enhance the park’s educational and recreational offerings at English Camp.

Known to many San Juan Island residents as part of the Westcott Bay Sea Farm, the property also offers rich upland forest and wetland habitats. The land was previously owned and managed by the Webb family. Representatives of the Webb family, local conservation groups and the NPS approached The Conservation Fund with the intent of protecting the property and perpetuating Bill and Doree Webb’s vision for the land to remain free from adverse development. The Conservation Fund and the NPS worked together to design a unique conservation plan that would preserve the land’s natural state, while enabling the family or subsequent owners of the historic sea farm to continue to use a portion of the tidelands for oyster farming operations.

“The National Park Service was looking for a way to add valuable land to the park without compromising the ability of the oyster farm to operate; and we’re pleased that we will be able to achieve both goals here,” said San Juan Island National Historical Park superintendent Lee Taylor. “The beautiful property will be a wonderful addition to the national historical park and will provide real benefits to the community.”

The NPS acquired the first portion of the 70-acre property from The Conservation Fund with support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a federal land protection program that receives a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties. The U.S. Congress appropriated the LWCF funding in Fiscal Year 2010 with strong support from U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Representative Rick Larsen.

”The conservation and preservation of our natural resources reflects the values I grew up with here in Washington State,” said Senator Murray. “I want to leave the same kind of legacy for my grandchildren and for future generations to enjoy. I am proud to have worked with Senator Cantwell and Congressman Larsen to expand the San Juan Island National Historical Park for all Washingtonians to enjoy.”

“The preservation of this important land within San Juan Island National Historical Park builds upon our efforts to protect and expand public access to Washington’s natural landscapes and cultural heritage,” said Senator Cantwell. “I was proud to work with local stakeholders to preserve nearby Mitchell Hill and keep it in the public domain. This new addition is a great example of the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in ensuring that treasured lands will be there for future generations to enjoy.” Congressman Larsen noted: “One-hundred and fifty years ago, hundreds of American and British troops faced off for control of San Juan Island. The historical importance of the Pig War is only matched by the outstanding beauty of the San Juan Islands. The expansion of San Juan Island National Historical Park will help preserve this site of natural and historic significance for residents and visitors today, and for future generations. I am pleased to have helped secure the funding that makes this expansion possible. I applaud the work of local leaders, the Webb family, the National Park Service and The Conservation Fund for making this vision a reality.”

LWCF is one of the nation’s premier conservation funding sources, which has been protecting forests, natural resources, state and local parks and recreation areas since 1965. An additional $400,000 is needed for the NPS to be able to purchase the remaining 36 acres of adjacent forest and wetland property from The Conservation Fund.

Formerly owned by the late Bill and Doree Webb, the property was once the site of the Webb Camp-School, a summer camp for boys. “Our parents would be pleased with our decision to sell our family land to The Conservation Fund so that it could become part of English Camp,” said the Webb sisters. “We and our parents have worked hard to keep this land natural and open and to support a healthy and clean Westcott Bay. We are grateful that the land will continue in its natural state for years to come and that others will have the opportunity to experience and enjoy it as we have.”

“In 2010, we worked with the State and County to help the Park Service protect the 320-acre Mitchell Hill property along the southern border of English Camp, preserving a trail network of 2.9 miles and a remnant of the 19th century military road linking English Camp to American Camp,” said The Conservation Fund’s Senior Vice President of the Western Region, Mark Elsbree. “The amount of open space available to the public is limited on the island, and the addition of the Webb property will further allow the Park Service to preserve and enhance the outstanding historical, natural and recreational resources offered at San Juan Island NHP.”

San Juan Island NHP was established in 1966 by Congress to commemorate the peaceful resolution of the San Juan Boundary Dispute, or “Pig War,” between Great Britain and the United States. Military forces from both nations jointly (and peacefully) occupied the island from 1860 to 1872 following a crisis over a slain pig in 1859. The Webb property – along with Roche Harbor proper – was part of the military reserve charted by Captain George E. Pickett of the U.S. Army and Captain George Bazalgette of the British Royal Marines in 1860, following a low-key dispute over lime deposits at Roche Harbor.

“We’ll be engaging in careful planning for the use of this beautiful property in the coming year, and there will be opportunities for islanders to weigh in on what they would like to see happen,” said Taylor.