A Natural Wonder is Saved on Camano Island

Author: Whidbey Camano Land Trust | 12/08/18

Barnum Point County ParkIconic Barnum Point Is Protected Thanks to You!

Jerry Nielsen is eternally grateful that a beautiful piece of Camano Island will remain forever wild.

Nielsen, 80, lives on Barnum Road, a short distance away from Barnum Point. He’s watched countless Bald Eagles perched atop madrones there and listened to the soothing sound of waves for more than 70 years. Nielsen deeply appreciates the efforts of the Land Trust to permanently protect this iconic place.

Originally just 27 acres, Barnum Point County Park hadn’t been opened by the County because of site difficulties. After three years of work by the Land Trust, in partnership with Island County, Friends of Camano Island Parks (“FOCIP”) and you, our amazing members, the park has expanded six-fold. It is now nearly 170 acres with a full mile of beach and 2.5 miles of forested trails. This achievement was made possible by a shared community vision, significant grant funding, and a groundswell of private donor support. Thank you!

“If it wasn’t for the Land Trust, Barnum Point would’ve been divided into millionaire lots,” Nielsen said.

The success of the park expansion hinged on first acquiring a crucial 35-acre property held by a bankruptcy company. We were within a half hour of losing the property to a private buyer. If that had happened, it would have ended the quest to create a signature park for Camano Island. This key property was acquired in December 2015, after securing an emergency bridge loan from The Conservation Fund.

Continuing work under immense time constraints, a second waterfront property, also under imminent threat, was protected. That was thanks to more than 600 private donors who responded to an urgent fundraising campaign. This success was followed by acquisition of three low-bank waterfront lots and a 40-acre upland property that tied the park expansion all together.

In all, the $7 million project involved acquisition of six parcels, five of which are waterfront. Member donations allowed us to compete for and secure nine government grants providing the lion’s share of the funding. Working with archeologists and local contractors, six structures were removed and recycled to prepare the county park for visitors.

“Our members pay for our talented staff who used their considerable skills to overcome many challenges and complications to expand Barnum Point in what seemed an impossible endeavor,” said Debora Valis, Land Trust board president. “They guided the complex collaborative effort, including securing all the necessary funding. The community now has an amazing 170-acre waterfront park for the public to enjoy.”

The new park has immense ecological value. It features high bluffs, coastal forest, a secluded pond, extensive beach and tidelands, and incredible views of the Salish Sea, the Cascades and the Olympics. Barnum Point also provides critical refuge and feeding areas for juvenile salmon and is on the Pacific Flyway, a key stop for hundreds of thousands of migratory waterbirds.

“The creation and development of Barnum Point as a county park will produce a keystone park for Camano,” said Bill Oakes, Island County’s director of parks and public works. “The partnership of the Land Trust community and the County has been vital to the success of this project. Barnum Park will be a true jewel for Camano Island.”

For the first time in more than a century, the public is now able to experience the land’s spectacular natural features. A large part of Barnum Point County Park is already open to visitors. A grand opening for the entire park will take place in 2019.

“It’s such a beautiful park,” said Tom Eisenberg, president of FOCIP, a volunteer group that helps maintain parks on Camano Island. “Everyone I meet who’s walked through it just absolutely loves it.”

Eisenberg and Nielsen became very concerned three years ago when rumors about Barnum Point’s future were rampant.

“The Land Trust was there in the right place at the right time,” Eisenberg said. “I’m totally grateful for everything the Land Trust has done on Camano Island.”

And, without you, saving this natural wonder wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you!