Nature Preserve on Camano is Birder’s Delight

Author: Jessica | 07/31/18

Elger Bay Estuary

The Elger Bay Estuary is an important tidal estuary for fish and wildlife on Camano Island.

Fran Burnside’s dearest childhood memories are rooted on the shores of Camano Island. When she was a young girl in the 1940s, she and her two brothers would spend summers at her grandparents’ property on Elger Bay. Once there, they’d row boats, fish for sole, drop crab pots and explore their 72 acres of beach, woods and wetlands.

“We’d get out of the car and, before we even unloaded our suitcases or took anything into the house, we’d get in the boat and take crab traps out,” Burnside recalled. “My grandparents would take us up there during the school year on a Friday. We loved it so much we’d get up at 5 in the morning on Monday to go back to Seattle to go to school.”

These are the memories Burnside cherishes at Arthur and Frances Gough’s cabin on the water. Most of the property remained in the family for three-quarters of a century. In July, Burnside and relatives, on behalf of the Gough/Richmond family, donated 38 acres of tidal wetlands to the Land Trust ensuring the land’s permanent protection.

The Elger Bay Estuary is an important tidal estuary that benefits fish and wildlife. Much of the wetlands are covered with driftwood surrounded by a fringe of forest.

“My family loved that property for 75-plus years and we’re more than happy to share it,” Burnside said. “It is a refuge for wildlife. As time goes by and places become more populated, it becomes more important to have open space and to preserve those areas.”

Burnside remembers seeing skunks, eagles, and a wide variety of other birds on the property which was passed on to her parents John and Ruth Richmond. Earlier this month, two short-tailed weasels were observed chasing each other across the sea of driftwood.

“It’s a loved site for birders and wildlife enthusiasts,” said Ryan Elting, the Land Trust’s conservation director.

The preserve is not yet open to the public, but future plans include a small parking area and nature viewing platform. If opportunity allows, the Land Trust would like to expand the preserve, Elting said.

Even though Burnside now lives in Arizona, Elger Bay remains close to her heart.

“We used to catch a lot of sole and my grandmother would cook it for breakfast,” she said. “To this day, it’s still my favorite fish.”


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