Monday, May 16, 2016

Long Into the Future...

Often we look at losses and bemoan not having done something.  Something like saving our clean water before it's polluted, not protecting an animal before it goes extinct or not saying "I love you" before a loved one dies.  We can surround ourselves in regrets and the sorrow of loss.  Or we can flip the coin.  We can create and be grateful for triumphs in our lives.  For saving something remarkable.  For preserving something that will be shared and loved and enjoyed long into the future.  Naturally, wondrous historic buildings and national parks fall into these categories and right here on Whidbey Island we have numerous examples, including Saratoga Woods Preserve.

Returning home from our winter travels is returning to the things we love and Saratoga Woods is one of those things.   But it's not just the beautiful property and fabulous trails, it is the process of living in a place, participating, and being involved in a community effort to protect what we cherish.  It's the friendships made along the way.  It's memories!

Several years ago the neighbors near 118 acres of land on Saratoga Road were alerted to a proposed planned unit development.  There were to be houses.  Lots of houses.  Activist hats were put on and Save the Woods on Saratoga was formed.  Initially we were a fierce group of three women -- Diane Kendy, Betty Azar and Fran Abel -- quickly expanding to our spouses and other community members.  We were becoming a "force".

No project to save land from development is easy.  Constant political vigilance is required.  As activists we were concerned about wildlife habitat, water overuse, bluff stability, noise,  traffic and all the many issues that can accompany a very large development in a quiet rural neighborhood.  Our  first action was to drive to Seattle and hire ourselves an attorney, David  Bricklin.  Naturally, that resulted in the need for dollars so fundraising was begun, along with brochures, meetings and very full calendars.

Beautiful glacial erratic rock.
Photo by Laughing Stump Photography

Interesting bent trees on Bent Tree Trail.

It is probably long forgotten that the very first Saratoga Chamber Orchestra was begun as a fund raiser by and for Save the Woods on Saratoga.  It was spearheaded by Diane Kendy and Michael Nutt and was performed in the home of Dick and Cynthia Tilkin.   We had a packed house!  Our group was also behind the formation of the first Whidbey Island Garden Tour, setting it up to benefit an environmental cause, and to provide a "hit" of money.  Save the Woods on Saratoga was the first beneficiary.

Many contributed in so many ways to initially blocking a housing development; then a resort; and lastly, a timber harvest.   Finally the words, "If we want to save this property into the future, we must buy it." were uttered and then acted on.   With great effort the dollars were raised, the land was purchased and the land's ownership was turned over to Island County as a preserve, protected under a Whidbey-Camano Land Trust management plan.  Saratoga Woods is now a  maze of trail delight, open for walking, biking, horseback riding and wildlife viewing.   With the generosity of neighbors granting an easement it links to Putney Woods.  The combination of Saratoga Woods and Putney Woods provides about 800 acres of trail paradise.

Trail signs denote plants or features one can see on the trails.  

As the years have passed members of our team have passed as well.  Wanting to remember them, we received permission under the property's management  plan to plant a tree for each deceased person.  Knowing a grove of Sequoias would develop and last for generations to come, that's the tree we selected for our grove.  The first tree we planted was for Dick Tilkin,  1939 - 2006.

The second tree was for Michael Nutt, 1933 - 2008.

Michael at Saratoga Woods

If you drive by Saratoga Woods, on Saratoga Road, you will see three Sequoia trees in the meadow near the pond-wetland.  One for Michael, one for Dick and the third in reserve for the last member of our group to die.  The rest of the Saratoga Woods Preserve team will have a memorial tree planted as well.  Our hope is that the grove of Sequoias, and the entire preserve, will be kindly treated, enjoyed and cherished…long into the future.


"Saving the world requires saving democracy.  That requires well-informed citizens.  Conservation, environment, poverty, community, education, family, health, economy--these combine to make one quest:  liberty and justice for all."  

~ Carl Safina


  1. This is beautiful, Fran! Diane

  2. Thanks Diane! And thanks for hanging in there on this project to make it happen!

  3. A wonderful reminder -- a nice revisiting. Thanks, Fran....

  4. Yes, lovely writing, Fran.


  5. Well said. As others have responded, it is beautiful and lovely. Both what you have said, Fran, and what we all were able to experience make for memories that make this our home. Thank you!
    ~ Lynae

  6. Wow, what a nice blog. Very sweet. Fond memories. Thanks for sharing.

    David Bricklin