Partnership Expands Wildlife Habitat and Recreational Opportunities
Park Additions Will Mean 110 More Acres of Protected Forestland
Erin Lietzan loves riding her horse, Arlo, in Kettles Trails County Park on North Whidbey. The only part of the experience that causes some anxiety is the start. After saddling up, riders must follow a stretch of trail along a busy highway to access the forested County park from the parking area. That stretch is a bit scary.
“He (Arlo) is a really good boy, but weird stuff happens,” Lietzan said, stroking the horse before a recent ride. “It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, things happen. You try to limit your exposure to unnecessary risk.”
That risk will soon be eliminated. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust partnered with Island County and facilitated the County acquiring a 43-acre addition to the Kettles County Park, located adjacent to Fort Ebey State Park. This key acquisition will provide improved trail access into the Kettles Park from the County parking area located at the corner of Libbey Road and State Highway 20.
In the coming months, the County will be significantly improving the Libbey Road parking area, including constructing a new trail leading from the parking area to the existing trail system. This new trail will route recreationists through the new forested acquisition and away from the busy highway.
“Having an alternate way to get into the Kettles Trails that’s safer and goes through woods is a really exciting opportunity for riders,” said Sally Garratt of the Island County Chapter of Backcountry Horsemen.
The Land Trust has also partnered with Washington State Parks to acquire another wonderfully forested property adjacent to the new Kettles Park addition and Fort Ebey State Park. That partnership started with a phone call from Marilyn Vogel, who wanted to work with us to conserve her family’s 67-acre property. Her father, Art Vogel, purchased the land in the 1940s and built the family’s home there. It was when the Land Trust staff was visiting Marilyn’s property that they discovered the neighboring 43 acres, owned by Allito Properties LLC, had just gone on the real estate market.
“An improved parking lot and the addition of the Allito property for trail access to the Kettles trails would be a major improvement for the County’s trail system at the Kettles.”
In order to make both property acquisitions possible, the Land Trust first had to take the Allito property off the market. After confirming the County’s interest in adding the property to the Kettles Park, we made an offer that was accepted by the owners. With the Land Trust’s guidance, the County purchased the Allito property on April 20.
The Allito and Vogel properties have healthy fir and hemlock forests intermixed with abundant Pacific madrone and lush understories filled with native rhododendron. Both properties are natural extensions of the adjacent parks. They’re also part of a significant habitat corridor for wildlife in a narrow part of Whidbey Island.
The Island County Chapter of Backcountry Horsemen and the Whidbey Island Bicycle Club are enthusiastic supporters of the projects. Both groups have committed to working with the County and each other to maintain, monitor and improve the Allito property, as they do with other County properties, including the Kettles and Putney Woods.
“An improved parking lot and the addition of the Allito property for trail access to the Kettles trails would be a major improvement for the County’s trail system at the Kettles,” wrote Kelly Stilwell of the Backcountry Horsemen.
“The Allito property is fairly flat for Whidbey Island standards and would allow for less strenuous trails for new riders and young kids to become familiar with mountain biking,” according to Matt Plush, bicycle club president.
Marilyn Vogel also is thrilled her father’s beloved property will become part of her favorite state park. The transfer of her property to State Parks is expected to occur this summer.
The Land Trust is pleased to facilitate protection of these 110 acres of important wildlife habitat while helping to provide more opportunities for the community to connect with nature.