By Kyle Jensen / South Whidbey Record
WHIDBEY ISLAND — When Langley resident Shelley Ackerman heard the properties containing trails next to her house were for sale, she knew she had to do something to prevent them from being logged and developed.
In an attempt to preserve the trails, Ackerman has organized a grassroots effort to save the 40 acres of forested land.
The two connected land parcels up for sale are located behind an old school on the west side of Maxwelton Road.
“I’ve lived nearby for 20 years and used the trails to walk my kids to the elementary school when they were students there,” Ackerman said. “I didn’t realize the properties were for sale until someone mentioned to me how it’d be a shame to lose the trails. And it would be a shame, because teachers take students on the trails for learning opportunities.”
With the help of a handful of friends and neighbors, Ackerman designed a website to raise awareness and funds.
The parcels have been owned by the Waterman family for years, and family members recently decided to sell them. Each parcel is 20 acres and contains a portion of the trails near the school.
Ackerman has collaborated with the nonprofit South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation for the effort. She said she realized it could be difficult to raise all the funds needed to buy the lands, which haven’t been assigned a value yet because land and timber appraisals haven’t been done.
There is some time to raise the donations, however, and Ackerman has a supporter of her cause in one of the landowners themselves.
“In an ideal world, our family would love it if someone would purchase it and maintain it as parkland,” said Debra Waterman, a part-owner of the acreage. “That’s been our pattern. We’ve sold quite a bit of property to the Land Trust because they’re able to maintain it for the future, and that’s a perfect result for us.”
Those involved in the preservation effort have reached out to different entities to identify potential buyers, in case Ackerman and her group aren’t able to raise enough money. They’ve contacted the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, which has purchased land from the Waterman family before — but the organization “can’t take this on” at the moment, Ackerman said.
Ackerman also reached out to South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District to see if it would be interested in covering the remaining cost to purchase the land, since the trails are near the district-owned community park. Waterman says selling to the parks district would be ideal due to its ability to maintain the trails.
At June’s monthly parks district commissioners meeting, park Director Doug Coutt pitched the idea of putting the purchase on the November ballot, depending on whether Ackerman could rally sufficient community support around the purchase.
“Ideally, it would be nice to raise the money and not need to go to the voters for a levy,” Ackerman said. “If we can get a combination of state grants, local grants and people pitching in, maybe the bond could be really small and an easy pass. Who knows?”