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Land trust still shy of goal to buy Trillium Woods, but remains hopeful

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust was still about $350,000 short of its goal Friday, deadline day, to purchase Trillium Woods and preserve it as a recreational forest.

The land trust had until close of business Friday to raise $4.2 million to buy the 664-acre wooded property north of Freeland from three Snohomish County banks. The property is the largest single-owner forest land remaining on Whidbey Island.

Elizabeth Guss, land trust director of outreach and development, said Friday morning that donations large and small continued to come in, but that an announcement about whether the land trust reached its goal probably won’t be made until early next week.

However, Guss remained confident.

“We’re continuing to go forward,” she said. “We’re quite certain we’re going to close this one.”

She said large donations, including amounts of $25,000 and $50,000, have been received along with a number of smaller contributions.

Meanwhile, anonymous donors have promised to match other contributions, including a pledged match from one donor of $100,000.

In March, the land trust acquired an option to buy the property from the banks that had taken it over after its developer went into foreclosure.

The land trust was given until June to raise $4.2 million, then granted a 90-day extension when it fell $1.8 million short.

Guss said it’s uncertain if the banks would grant another extension. She said land trust and bank officials will meet next week to discuss all options, including a possible bridge loan to take advantage of several donors who have requested a multi-year donation schedule.

Guss said earlier that donations have been about half cash and half pledges. She said each donor is asked up front what the land trust should do with the money if the property isn’t acquired.

She said some say use it for other projects, some say use it for specific projects and the remainder want their contributions returned.

Asked if the land trust would consider buying only a portion of the property if fundraising comes up short, Guss said: “When it comes to negotiations, anything is possible. But our goal is still to do it all.”

The original 750-acre property is west of Highway 525 about a mile north of Mutiny Bay Road. The woodland, adjacent to South Whidbey State Park, is laced with more than 10 miles of trails and has been a popular hiking and horseback-riding area.

“We’ve been receiving so many contributions every day, and we expect more today,” Guss said Friday.

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