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Land Trust hires a full-time director

Pat Powell, the new executive director of the Whidbey-Camano Land Trust, will be part of the trust
Pat Powell, the new executive director of the Whidbey-Camano Land Trust, will be part of the trust's increased future efforts to preserve unique and natural lands in Island County.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

The Whidbey-Camano Land Trust is going professional.

The organization, which has been a part of public land acquisitions including peat-underlain marshlands in the Maxwelton Valley and the now-county-owned Saratoga Woods property in 2001, ended its all-volunteer status this week when its new executive director moved into the trust's new office space.

The first tenant of the restored 1915 Sears House owned by Goosefoot Community Fund, the trust is making its operations more businesslike to do a more effective job of acquiring land. Cary Peterson, president of the trust's board of directors, said the organization's volunteers had done as much as they could without full-time professional help. Last month, the trust hired land acquisition consultant Pat Powell to be the trust's director. Owner of Powell Land Protection Consulting, a Freeland business, Powell said this week that signing on with the land trust and closing her business is something she is not doing lightly.

"it was a difficult choice to make," she said.

Powell and a part-time office assistant will work on the main floor of the Sears House, which is expected to be nearly finished in time for the land trust's Nov. 16 open house. After the opening, Powell said the trust will start work on its big project for the coming year, developing a land acquisition plan. She said the trust will call public forums over the next year in various areas of Island Count to find out from citizens which lands they want preserved and kept wild.

Once the trust has identified parcels for purchase and preservation, Powell said she will work with granting organizations, government agencies and land trust members and donors to begin buying land. When public money is involved, Powell said she will be able to act as a negotiator for agencies like parks districts, and will use her expertise to negotiate fair deals for both land owners and the public.

Though the land the trust wants to purchase will probably become public knowledge as the trust develops its plan, Powell said she doesn't believe that will inflate prices of target properties.

Prior to joining the land trust, Powell worked for The Nature Conservancy as the group's director of land protection, and for nine years as a special lands acquisition and trust land transfer manager with the state Department of Natural Resources. She was one of The Nature Conservancy staff members involved in giving 550 acres of Ebey's Landing protected status.

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