Property owners give trail-saving effort a timeline

In July, Langley resident Shelley Ackerman launched efforts to prevent a trail system near her home from being sold, logged and developed.

After months of limited progress in the effort, the property’s owners say they must see more headway in the near future or they’re selling.

The property is located behind the old primary school on Maxwelton Road, near the Island Shakespeare Festival grounds.

“We need to have a plan to build a road on the property soon, so we can get bids as soon as school is out,” Debra Waterman, one of the property owners, said. “We’re just looking for something to happen. It’s been up in the air for months and months.”

Waterman and the other property owners, numerous family members, say they need to see moves made by late spring so they can take advantage of the dry summer to construct a road on the property before selling. Missing the chance to build then could delay the project to 2019, as the soggy weather would make construction difficult, Waterman says.

That’s something the Watermans want to avoid, as they are hoping for a cash windfall this year.

Currently, there is no access road to the 40-acre lot, so building a road is key to selling. The property is split into two 20-acre parcels.

Ackerman’s initial attempt to save the trails included a grassroots effort to raise the funds to purchase the property from the Watermans. Months of seeking donations were unsuccessful, so she approached the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District commissioners to see if they’d be interested in taking on the trail-saving effort.

The district is now considering applying for grant monies for a land acquisition project, though Waterman’s desire to see “solid action” soon means the district doesn’t have much time.

“I don’t get the sense she would like to wait until the end of the year for the parks district to purchase the property,” Ackerman said. “But if a plan was presented to her and it showed the parks district is behind it, maybe she’d be open to waiting.”

Waterman said the “solid action” her family is seeking includes a grant application plan likely to score funds to acquire the land.

During their meeting, parks commissioners said they aren’t keen on going to the voters with a bond measure.

However, Waterman says her family would prefer to sell property to buyers who will preserve the land. They just need to see concrete plans set in motion.

“It’s a family philosophy to try to sell these properties to people that are going to retain the land in large chunks for community use,” Waterman said. “We’ve held off our plans for months to see if that’s a possibility.

“We just need to see something happen or else we’ll have to sell.”