By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
CAMANO ISLAND — Starting next year, the public will have a new place from which to enjoy the beauty of Port Susan.
Barnum Point, on the northeast side of Camano Island, was recently bought by Island County and the Nature Conservancy for about $2 million.
The 52-acre property contains woodlands and dramatic views across the bay to the southeast from a beach and a 150-foot bluff.
The Barnum family owned the property for generations, said Kat Morgan, who manages Port Susan projects for the Nature Conservancy.
The environmental group, which preserves natural areas by purchasing them, and the county worked together to obtain grants to buy the property from the family, Morgan said.
The county will maintain the park as a natural recreation area with trails and beach access, said Helen Price Johnson, a commissioner for Island County.
It probably won’t be open this year, however, said Bill Oakes, the county public works director.
“There’s no parking to speak of, and it’s very rugged,” he said.
The county hopes to open the park next year once the parking and a trail to the beach are established, Oakes said.
Morgan said much of the property has been left in a natural state. Slow erosion of the bluff helps to preserve salmon habitat in the bay, she said. Keeping the land as it is will allow that to continue.
“It’s replenishing beaches for about three miles north of the site,” she said. “This one site has a big impact on the ecological function of the shoreline.”
Just north is Livingston Bay, where the Nature Conservancy recently bought 10 acres. A project there has created better tidal flow in a small lagoon, Morgan said. Last year, on the east side of the bay, the organization restored 150 acres of tideland that had been diked off for more than 50 years.
All told, the Nature Conservancy and Whidbey-Camano Land Trust have preserved more than 7,000 acres of tidelands in Port Susan since 2001, according to Robin Stanton, a spokeswoman for the Nature Conservancy.
Port Susan is important to salmon because it’s located at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River and between the Skagit and Snohomish rivers, Morgan said.
“The pocket estuaries are really important for all the salmon coming out of the big rivers,” she said. “It’s all connected.”
As far as the park is concerned, “it’s just going to be another real asset to Camano Island and the public and visitors,” said Carol Triplett, president of Friends of Camano Island Parks.
“We’re really pleased this has been acquired. It’s a wonderful piece of land.”
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.