Elger Bay Preserve

Elger Bay Estuary, seen from the air on July 31, is an important tidal wetland for fish and wildlife on Camano Island. Fran Burnside donated 38 acres of estuary wetlands in July to Whidbey Camano Land Trust to ensure its permanent protection.

Fran Burnside’s dearest childhood memories are rooted on the shores of Camano Island. As a young girl in the 1940s, she and her two brothers would spend summers at her grandparents’ property on Elger Bay. They’d row boats, fish for sole, drop crab pots and explore their 72 acres of beach, woods and wetlands.

“We’d get out of the car and, before we even unloaded our suitcases or took anything into the house, we’d get in the boat and take crab traps out,” Burnside said.

Burnside cherishes these memories of Arthur and Frances Gough’s cabin on the water. Most of the property has remained in the family.

In July, Burnside and relatives, on behalf of the Gough/Richmond family, donated 38 acres of tidal wetlands to Whidbey Camano Land Trust to ensure the land’s permanent protection.

“My family loved that property for 75-plus years and we’re more than happy to share it,” Burnside said. “It is a refuge for wildlife. As time goes by and places become more populated, it becomes more important to have open space and to preserve those areas.”

Burnside remembers seeing skunks, eagles and a wide variety of other birds on the property, which was passed on to her parents John and Ruth Richmond. Earlier this month, two short-tailed weasels were observed chasing each other across the sea of driftwood.

“It’s a loved site for birders and wildlife enthusiasts,” said Ryan Elting, the Land Trust’s conservation director.

The preserve is not yet open to the public, but future plans include a small parking area and nature-viewing platform. If opportunity allows, the Land Trust would like to expand the preserve, Elting said.

Ron Newberry is communications manager at the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, a nonprofit nature conservation organization that involves the community in protecting, restoring and appreciating the natural habitats and resource lands on the islands and in Puget Sound waters. Visit wclt.org, or contact WCLT at info@wclt.org or 360-222-3310.

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