June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:43 PM
"There was an impressive amount of good news last week on the save the island front.*Friends of Freeland announced they had signed a purchase agreement for 18 acres of commercially-zoned property in the heart of town. Some day, it may become a nature retreat for studying wetlands, bird watching, and creating art. The price is $615,000, and another $485,000 is needed by June 15.*Save the Woods on Saratoga announced a similar agreement. The group, working with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, intends to purchase 118 acres of Saratoga forest land and turn it into a park. Purchase price is $750,000, of which $300,000 must still be raised by the end of the summer.In both cases, private individuals have stepped in to save property that, if developed commercially, would seriously degrade the island lifestyle. A large resort was once proposed for the Saratoga property, while the Freeland property would probably become home to more offices, stores or multi-family housing.These private efforts to save public assets brings renewed hope that important parts of the island can be preserved for future generations. The Island County Comprehensive Plan helped in this effort by retaining large areas of rural zoning, but zoning is just temporary. To permanently preserve a piece of property, ownership by the public or a trust is essential.On South Whidbey, there is very little public money to acquire property. The Parks District is tapped out, Island County is spending its acquisition dollars on North Whidbey and Camano for the foreseeable future, and the Port District has far more demands than money to satisfy them. As a result, people who really want to save the island are digging into their own wallets -- proof again that South Whidbey is a special place populated by a large number of special, caring individuals.Both land acquisition efforts deserve widespread public support. He's how to make a tax deductible contribution:Freeland property: Send donations to Friends of Freeland, P.O. Box 861, Freeland WA 98249. Saratoga property: Send donations to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, P.O. Box 147, Clinton WA 98236. "