Trust surpasses goal to buy land at Barnum Point

CAMANO ISLAND — The group set an ambitious goal: $750,000 by the end of the summer.

That’s how much the nonprofit Whidbey Camano Land Trust needed to raise in order to buy 37 acres of land that was in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings and on the verge of being sold, likely to a private buyer.

The acreage is part of an ongoing conservation effort to buy 129 acres at Barnum Point, a mix of upland habitat and tidelands along the east side of Camano Island at Triangle Cove. The plan is to turn that land over to Island County to create a public park with beach access, trails and protected habitat for marine animals, waterfowl and shorebirds.

By July 23, the Land Trust had raised about $323,000. On Tuesday, the day the group had set as its cut-off for raising the $750,000, it announced that it had surpassed the goal. Donations still are coming in and the final tally hasn’t been calculated, but it’s more than enough to close the deal on those 37 acres by mid-October, conservation director Ryan Elting said. The money collected this summer is on top of a $385,000 state salmon recovery grant to help pay for the property.

“There’s just not any other place like Barnum Point where we can have a new mile of public beach access and over two and half miles of trails that are in place and are ready to be used,” he said. “It’s just really exciting that things are falling into place.”

The 37 acres are expected to be tacked onto an adjacent 27-acre county property, bringing the total up to 64 acres out of the 129 that have been identified for the future park.

The private land near the expanding county park is owned by members of the Barnum family. In 1904, Sterling Jones Barnum bought 110 acres at the point and settled there.

The remaining family members and landowners “are willing to wait until we come up with the additional funding to acquire the other properties,” land trust spokeswoman Amy McInerney said.

The land trust also took out a bridge loan last fall to get 35 acres of land that, like the 37 acres it is acquiring now, were moving through the bankruptcy process.

More than 600 people donated to the summer effort to buy the 37 acres, which includes 17 acres of upland habitat and 20 acres of tidelands.

The work isn’t done yet, though, McInerney said. The Land Trust has applied for grants and continues to collect donations for buying the remaining acreage. The group estimates that the entire park project is going to cost about $6 million. The organization needs to pay back the $850,000 bridge loan and buy four more properties totaling about 30 acres. Then the group hopes to raise money to help with planning and preservation efforts on the land.

“It’s been a really exciting whirlwind for us,” McInerney said. “We’re celebrating this first really big win.”

The goal is to purchase the remaining properties and transfer all of the acreage over to the county by Dec. 28, 2017, Elting said. From there, the county would be able to open the land up for public access and create a long-term plan to care for the park.

For more information about Barnum Point, go to wclt.org/projects/barnum-point.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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