County awards land preservation grants

Island County commissioners last week awarded grants to two projects that will protect open space and expand walking trail systems in North and Central Whidbey.

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust will receive $92,000 from the county conservation futures fund to expand its Strawberry Point Preserve. The money will go toward acquiring an adjacent parcel of land and trail and parking easements to provide public access to more than 200 acres of open space, according to the funding request.

The 10-acre property is next to the nearly 90-acre preserve, which is where Whidbey’s lone elk Bruiser is known to reside. The trail easement will measure about one-mile in length and traverse through 100 acres of upland forest and grassland and connect to an existing trailhead and parking area. The preserve currently doesn’t have public access. A spokesperson for the Land Trust said the organization still needs more funding to construct the parking lot, and the property won’t be open to the public until this is completed — which will “hopefully” happen in the next few years, he said.

Commissioner Janet St. Clair noted that the property has wetlands, which are valuable to the ecosystem.

Commissioners also approved funding to the county parks department to expand the Kettles Recreation Area. The county had already purchased the 42-acre property located near Libbey Road using real estate excise tax, called REET, funding.

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