For the Love of Wildlife, Greenbank Couple Protects Wooded Property
Allens Have Tended Their Forest, Garden for More Than 60 Years
If trees could talk, one can only imagine what those on Don and Jan Allens’ land would say.
For more than a half century, the Allens have gently tended their wooded Whidbey Island property, helping a lush forest remain standing. Over the years, the two avid gardeners have added hundreds of rhododendrons and other native plants to the landscape, creating inviting habitat for an abundance of wildlife, including butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
The Allens’ lives have been intertwined with nature for a long time. Now both 85, they have enjoyed this intimate setting with birds and chipmunks for 61 years. As they’ve grown older, however, their concern for the future of their land has increased.
Their fondness for the forest and the creatures that inhabit it prompted them to search for a way to protect the land even after they’re no longer around to look after it themselves. This desire led them to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and, ultimately, to a decision that will keep their land protected permanently.
The Allens will donate a conservation easement to the Land Trust that ensures their 31-acre property will always remain the same forested home for wildlife it is today.
A conservation easement is a permanent legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization, such as a land trust, that places certain restrictions on a property. In this case, the remaining development rights on the Allens’ property are going to be extinguished. This agreement will stay with the property regardless of who owns it in the future.
The Allens, who have no children, wanted that peace of mind.
Don Allen has seen trees go down, and houses go up, not far from their Greenbank home. “I understand that we have to have logs to make houses, but there’s got to be a balance,” he said. “Every time I see a logging truck go by with a load of logs, I think, ‘At least they’re not mine.’”
The overall landscape hasn’t changed much since Don and Jan moved into a small log-cabin-style house on the property as newlyweds in 1956. They eventually built a larger house on their original six acres and purchased the 25-acre forest behind them.
Don worked mostly as a small engine mechanic and served 37 years as a volunteer with Central Whidbey Island’s fire department, retiring as a battalion chief. Jan spent 29 years working in the county auditor’s office.
After their working days were over, they spent more time enjoying their forest, filled with second growth Douglas fir and alder and a rich understory of ferns, red huckleberry, and native blackberries. It’s also home to a wide variety of birds, including owls and three types of woodpeckers.
The Allens haven’t cut any trees from the forest. Over the years, the only wood they’ve taken has been from fallen trees they’ve used for firewood.
“We like the woods,” Don said. “It’s good protection for the birds. And it’s private.”
“I love the birds,” Jan said. “If the deer stay out of the garden, I even like the deer.”
It’s been a peaceful setting for a couple who has enjoyed one another’s company for six decades — much quieter than the first time they met. They were introduced during a blind date at a demolition derby in Port Angeles. Jan is from nearby Sequim.
“What a place to take your gal,” Don mused.