EVERETT — A Whidbey Island couple has donated 3.8 acres of waterfront property to Everett Community College’s Ocean Research College Academy.
Gary and Kathi Lang’s daughter, Rebekah Woodson, graduated from ORCA in 2013. ORCA is an early college academy for high school students focused on marine sciences and field research.
The land on south Whidbey is undevelopable because of steep sliding slopes, Gary Lang said from his home in Arizona.
His father, Don Lang, a former high school principal in Port Angeles, bought the property in the 1960s, but the Shoreline Management Act passed in the early 1970s precluded any development there.
All possible development plans turned out to be too expensive or too complicated, he said.
“It essentially became a white elephant in our family,” Lang said.
His father died in 1989, and left the land to his mother.
“When she passed two years ago it became my problem,” Lang said.
The only option left was to find a charitable cause for the land. At about the same time, his stepdaughter, Rebekah, had enrolled in the ORCA program while a sophomore at Cascade High School.
“A lightbulb went off,” Lang said. He and his sister, Ruth Lang, worked for the next couple years to donate the property to the school.
Both Gary and Don Lang loved the sea and were avid salmon fishermen.
The property, which lies on the southeast coast of Whidbey Island just north of Possession Point Park, has a substantial bed of eelgrass in the water, which is known to be an indicator species.
“I’ve put crab pots out in front of this property in the past,” Lang said.
“Just having space that is our own where we don’t have to get permission to go and really utilize” will be a tremendous boon, said Ardi Kveven, ORCA’s executive director.
Last year, the program purchased a new 36-foot work boat so students can do near-shore fieldwork. Now they have a place they can take it again and again.
The eelgrass near the shore is a bonus, as it’s known to be habitat for every stage of salmon life as well as for other marine species.
“Being able to add a biological component to the study site is really powerful for students to study the ecosystem,” Kveven said.
Classes at ORCA are already being adapted to take advantage of the donation.
This month the first group of students went out to the site to map out the area of the eelgrass bed, Kveven said. They’ll later start identifying the species in the area, studying the geology of the landslide on the bluffs, and sample the waters for heavy metal contamination.
“It’s transformative for us,” she said.