How a Community Helped Save Trillium Community Forest

Author: Sheryl Clough | 09/01/21

Nurse log at Trillium Community Forest

A young hemlock rises from a nurse log at Trillium Community Forest. Photo by Dave Schoen.

Note: This year marks the 11th anniversary of the preservation of one of the Land Trust’s most beloved preserves, Trillium Community Forest, on South Whidbey. We invited Sheryl Clough, a writer and Land Trust member, to reflect on the spirited community efforts that led to its preservation.

“An old-growth forest is the closest thing to forever.” — Tom Cahill

A fortuitous chain of events led to the stunning achievement that is Trillium Community Forest, the Land Trust’s largest preserve located just north of Freeland on Whidbey Island. Its creation involved a wide spectrum of people and organizations who were instrumental in bringing the project to life.

When the Land Trust was presented with the opportunity to protect the 654-acre property in 2010, the prospect seemed immense. Confronted with raising the $4 million purchase price during the recession, the Land Trust board and staff realized they would need support from the entire Whidbey Island community including church groups, realtors, builders, bird watchers, horseback riders, 4-H Clubs and many others.

Donations also came from off-island supporters, thanks in large part to a front-page article in the Seattle Times, accompanied by a photo of horseback riders on the forest trails. That piece inspired generous donations from “Special Angels,” a group whose members remain anonymous to this day.

Horseback riding played a role in the acquisition of Trillium. Even before the Land Trust obtained an option to buy the land, trails had been cut through the forest by riders from M-Bar-C Ranch. Jerry Lloyd, a current volunteer site steward at Trillium, organized trail rides. He remembers a young girl asking the way to go as she sat astride Jerry’s horse, Kola. “He knows the way,” Jerry told her. He continues to assist in forest maintenance by hauling gravel, cutting brush and mowing trails.

Perhaps the site’s most significant improvement was the Land Trust’s restoration work to thin the long-neglected forest. Once air and light flowed into the understory, native plants and trees began to flourish. Other important improvements were two more public access points from Smugglers Cove and Bounty Loop roads. Plus increasing the community forest to 720 acres.

According to Tom Cahill, president of the Land Trust board of directors in 2010, one of the most rewarding things he does is talk with people who love the forest. He spent many enjoyable hours building trails with volunteers. And he envisions the day, 100 years from now, when Trillium will become a true old-growth forest, the closest thing to forever.


Trillium Community Forest

The Smugglers Cove Road trailhead at Trillium Community Forest.


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