"Family, Trust preserve rural land"
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:17 AM
"First, Island County closed the road. Now, descendants of a pioneer island family are making sure 28 acres of waterfront forest and pastures on an old portion of Wilkinson Road is never developed. Last week, acreage that once belonged to homesteaders George and Blanche Zimmerman became the newest ward of the Whidbey-Camano Land Trust.The Zimmermans purchased part of the property in 1909 and added the rest three years later. They raised chickens, cows and vegetables on the land and sold milk, butter and eggs to Brighton Beach summer campers.Blanche Zimmerman later became known as the Tomato Lady to the many South Whidbey residents who came each year to purchase her Bonnie Best tomato seedlings.George Zimmerman died in 1953, and Blanche died in 1975 at age 92.The land, which includes forest, pasture, 775 feet of beach and tidelands, became off limits to development, timber harvest, or subdivision when Mary Zimmerman of Sequim and Joan and Steve Raymond of Seattle signed a conservation easement agreement with the land trust.Its an example of a thing that is rapidly disappearing, Raymond said.The old homestead is tucked away on what is now one of the most remote corners of South Whidbey. Adjoining a slide-damaged, U-shaped section of Wilkinson Road, the property became largely inaccessible by automobile in 1997 when Island County temporarily closed the road. The county will permanently close the road to car traffic this year and redevelop the remaining road bed into a bicycle and walking trail.County property abuts one border of the homestead, while undeveloped land owned by the Waterman family bounds it on another side.Whidbey-Camano Land Trust board member Bob Windecker said Monday that the Zimmerman acreage will make for good sightseeing for walkers and bikers who use the closed road.Its a good place to bike, he said.Windecker cautioned that a conservation easement is not be confused with a park. The land is still privately held between the land trust and the Zimmerman family. Members of the public are not allowed onto the land.The fact that the Zimmermans descendants had the land to preserve in the first place is a minor miracle. Blanche Zimmerman sold part of the property in the early 1970s. The Raymonds recently bought that piece of land back, restoring the homesteads original boundaries.Steve Raymond explained why he and his wife went to such extraordinary lengths to buy something to which hey knew they would give away the devopment rights.The property has provided a home, subsistence, livelihood, recreation, and inspiration for four generations of the Zimmerman family and now inspires the deepest affection and reverence of family members. They all recognize its value as a rural, mostly-forested, wildlife rich environment of the type that is rapidly disappearing under the pressures of modern development, he stated.As part of the familys agreement with the land trust, family members will be allowed to own a residential structure on a 2-acre portion of the land. Currently, a home built in the late 1930s stands on the property. The family could choose to maintain that home, or to build a new one in the future.Along with about 300 acres of other land under the trusts legal protection, the Zimmerman homestead will remain as it is in perpetuity.Trust seeks Noble propertyThe Whidbey Camano Land Trust is currently attempting to acquire 10 acres of land in Langley owned by Ernie Noble. The Preserve Noble Creek group is raising money and interest for the purchase among South Whidbey residents.The Langley City Council voted 4-0 Wednesday to lend its moral support to the effort.Windecker said the group has already received about $8,000 toward what will be a $310,000 purchase. Donations for the purchase may be sent to Preserve Noble Creek, P.O. Box 100, Langley, WA 98260. For more information about the purchase, call 321-6303."