Effort underway to conserve Guemes Island's Kelly's Point

Effort underway to conserve Guemes Island's Kelly's Point

GUEMES ISLAND — On the southern edge of Guemes Island, a beach with patches of pebbles and sand hugs the base of towering bluffs.

The beach wraps around about a half-mile of the island’s shore. To the south is Anacortes, and to the west is densely forested Cypress Island.

“Before the Guemes Mountain Trail, this is where people came for that unique Guemes Island experience,” island resident and Skagit Land Trust land steward Kit Harma said of the area, which is called Kelly’s Point.

The family that owns 27 acres of property along Kelly’s Point and for years has allowed public access has put the property up for sale and received multiple offers, Skagit Land Trust Executive Director Molly Doran said.

The land trust has until Jan. 28 to secure $1.4 million to buy the property. Another about $600,000 would be needed to manage the property.

The land trust is working to ensure that the beach and bluffs at Kelly’s Point remain undeveloped and open to the public.

According to the land trust, Skagit County zoning rules would allow the area to be logged and have up to three homes built atop the bluffs.

“They (bluffs) are developed faster than anything else in Puget Sound because they have these great views,” Doran said while walking along the beach.

Possibly losing the trees atop the bluff because of development is a concern for the land trust.

“Those trees are stabilizing the bluff. That’s great wildlife habitat and a great view from the ferries and other boats,” Doran said.

The trust is also concerned that development would prevent natural erosion. As waves wear down the bluff walls, large pieces fall to the beach below and break down into sand and silt that is moved by the tides to other parts of the island.

“That’s how all the beaches on Guemes were made,” Doran said.

For Jeff and Mary Hale, who live adjacent to the property the trust hopes to purchase, the bluffs towering over the Kelly’s Point beach drew them to Guemes Island.

“I’ve always loved bluffs and we stumbled upon this and it’s just awesome. It’s beautiful,” Mary Hale said while embarking on her daily walk along the beach with her husband and their dog, Pepper.

The Hales said they want to see it remain intact and open to the public.

“It’s just very special,” Mary Hale said, describing how the bluffs take on a yellow glow when the sun sets. “It would be really sad to see this incredible, geological expanse of land go into private ownership that only a few people could enjoy.”

During the winter, her family and other locals brave the wind and rain to visit the beach, she said. During the summer, visitors spend time reading in the sun while others search for unique rocks with their children.

Of the about $2 million total needed to purchase and manage Kelly’s Point, the land trust hopes to raise about $300,000 through private donations.

The organization plans to use money from grants, donations and, if needed, loans to cover the rest.

That main source of the funds would be a $1 million National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant the land trust applied for in partnership with the state Department of Ecology.

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