San Juan historical park grows, adds beach access

A valuable piece of property has been added to a historical park best known for its Pig War.

Thirty-four aces, including 2,500 feet of shoreline on Westcott Bay are now part of the English Camp unit of the San Juan Island Historical Park.

The property stands out for several reasons, said Jerald Weaver, chief of integrated resources for San Juan Island National Historical Park:

  • It protects the water quality of Doe Creek, which enters Westcott Bay.
  • It protects the boundaries of the Pig War.
  • The additional shoreline is available to the public on an island with limited public access to the shoreline.
  • The parcel is within the original military English camp.
  • It has evidence of significant Native American habitation.

“It’s a beautiful site,” Weaver said.

“(English Camp) focuses on the cultural history and protecting scenic qualities,” he said, and the addition offers new opportunities to the public.

The property, with upland forests and wetland habitats, was part of the Westcott Bay Sea Farm, owned and managed by the Webb family.

The Conservation Fund and the National Park Service designed a plan to protect the property while enabling the present and future owners of the historic sea farm to continue using a portion of the land and tidelands for oyster farming.

The site was acquired, in part, with a federal land-protection program and receives a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties.

Park officials want to open the 34 acres later this year.

The park was established in 1966 to commemorate the peaceful resolution of the San Juan Boundary Dispute, or Pig War, between Great Britain and the United States.

Military forces from both nations jointly (and peacefully) occupied the island from 1860 to 1872 following a crisis over a slain pig in 1859.

For more about San Juan Island National Historical Park see www.nps.gov/saj.

Wildlife: It’s a very busy wildlife world this month. While there may be action in your backyard, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s refuges (wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas) are even busier.

To combine wildlife watching and education, check out these two festivals:

Olympic Bird Fest (April 5 to 7), Sequim. Events include birding cruises, owl prowls, wildlife photography workshops and educational programs of the Dungeness River Audubon Center. Go to www.olympicbirdfest.org.

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival (April 5 to 7). Celebrate the spectacular spring migration and feeding at a major resting stopover.

Details of scheduled crane viewing and other wildlife tours, talks and events, are at www.othellosandhillcranefestival.org.

It must be spring: Stevens Pass Ski Area spring sale has begun. Season passes purchased now are good for the rest of this season and all of next. The passes are on sale through May 5.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-9964 or www.songandword.com.

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