Beachcombers and birdwatchers can now enjoy longer west-side beach walks on nature-rich Sunset Beach thanks to a private donation to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. Over 16-acres of undeveloped tidelands will link two existing publicly-owned tideland tracts and create a continuous 2.2 mile public access resource.
Long time Oak Harbor resident, Beatrice Morgan, donated 19 undeveloped tideland lots that extend more than a quarter mile along the Strait of Juan de Fuca near West Beach and Fort Nugent roads.
In the early 1970’s, her now deceased husband, Hubert, designed and developed the nearby Sea View subdivision along West Beach Road. As part of his design, Morgan separated the 16.5-acres of tidelands from the residential lots on the west side of West Beach Road. After his death in 2003, Beatrice Morgan held onto the strip of beach access, and with the help of her son, Robert, decided to donate it to the Land Trust.
“We bought that land around 1954 and Hubert developed some of it but he left the beach and bluff untouched,” Beatrice Morgan said. “We used to take our two young grandsons to enjoy that land years ago, but we haven’t visited it in years. I’m glad that the public will be able to use it.”
The important stretch of land has beach and steep feeder bluffs that are home to a variety of sea and shorebirds. The land is situated about a half mile northwest of the Land Trust’s Del Fairfax Forest Preserve. It can be accessed about one mile north along West Beach Road. Public ownership will ensure future generations of beach walkers and naturalists will not be blocked from the area by owners who may not want the public on their private tidelands.
Securing public access to tidelands is a high priority for us because it provides more opportunities for the public to experience the range of habitats found on the County’s islands.
“This generous donation assures that current and future generations will always have access to this remarkable beach,” said Dyanne Sheldon, Land Trust board member. “The shoreline’s steep bluffs are a distinct and fragile habitat, and we want to remind beach walkers to ‘tread lightly’ on their visits to help keep this delicate habitat intact and functioning as a place for all to enjoy.”
About a third of Island County’s 214-acres of marine shoreline is publicly owned and accessible by the public.
Libbey Beach Tidelands
Libbey Beach Park is a great place to picnic, walk, explore the diverse nearshore environment and observe a wide variety of shorebirds. And now, with the Land Trust’s purchase of 1,200 feet of private tidelands donated to Island County as an addition to the Libbey Beach County Park, community members will have even more to enjoy.
Nearshore birds seen along the beach include Harlequin Ducks that feed just offshore, Black Oystercatchers feeding on the rocks at low tides, and Double-crested Cormorants, Common and Red-Throated Loons, Horned and Western Grebes, Surf Scoters, gulls and more.
Island County is encircled by 221 miles of shoreline – nearly 9% of all shoreline in Puget Sound. Less than 50% of its tidelands are publicly owned. There are 44 publicly-owned properties in the County that provide saltwater access to the beach. However, acquiring additional public beach access and tidelands remains a high priority. Tidelands are the strip of land between ordinary low water and ordinary high water. They are part of a very diverse and vital nearshore habitat that provide a rich and abundant source of food and shelter for large numbers of fish and wildlife species.