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Samish Flower Farm Protected

Samish Flower Farm Beach

Skagit Land Trust (the Trust) has purchased the Samish Flower Farm, the beloved “front door” of Samish Island, with its 100+ year-old forest and 500 feet of Padilla Bay shoreline. More than 500 families, businesses, and organizations donated towards the purchase. The Conservation Fund provided the Trust a partial bridge loan while the Trust awaits grant funds. Without conservation ownership, the property could have been cleared and subdivided into numerous smaller lots. The purchase of these 34.25 acres ensures that the land will remain forever undeveloped. Skagit Land Trust will manage the property as one of its conservation areas.

Pictured above: Trust staff on the beach. From left to right, Conservation Director Michael Kirshenbaum, Conservation Project Manager Jane Zillig, Executive Director Molly Doran.

“All of us are so grateful our community came out in full force to support this project,” said Executive Director Molly Doran. “This forest is a huge part of the Island’s character and we know how precious natural shoreline is. Padilla Bay holds the second largest bed of seagrass on the west coast – it is critical we keep it healthy. We plan to steward the property as wildlife habitat and provide ways for public access for walking and wildlife viewing. Low impact access can help engender conservation and education of Salish Sea habitats.”


Jane Zillig, the Trust’s Project Manager who oversaw the acquisition, said it was not only the incredible conservation values of this land that excited her about the project, but also the history of the property and the area. “The Murphy family, who sold us the land, have lived on this property for over 100 years and were responsible stewards of their land. In addition, the Salish Sea tribes have an extensive history on Samish Island. For the Trust to now be responsible for continued stewardship of this land is an honor that we take very seriously. Future generations will appreciate the efforts of the community of volunteers and donors who came forward to help preserve and steward this amazing landscape.”

The history of Skagit’s tulips begins on the Samish Flower Farm. In 1903, the Stewart Family homesteaded the property. Mary Stewart began cultivating flowers that eventually developed into a successful mail order business called Tulip Grange Bulb Farms. According to the Skagit County Historical Museum, Mary is credited with starting the county’s tulip bulb industry. In 2017, the family listed the property for sale. A potential sale could have led to logging and development of ten home sites on the property. In early 2018, the Trust and the family agreed to a conservation and sale solution.

Mary’s great granddaughter, Maggie Murphy, commented, “Our dedication to this property, so cherished by our family, grew out of a farming history and from our mother, Margaret (Chickie) Anne Stewart Murphy, and her dedication to helping her parents continue to farm flowers in the Skagit Valley. Our childhood summers were devoted to working in the bulb fields where we gained a respect for the family farm and the natural world. By the time we came along, the bulbs had transitioned to the Skagit Flats, but we made regular trips to the Island to repair fences, check on cattle, enjoy picnics on the beach, and dream of rebuilding our great-grandparent's homestead. With an eye to responsible stewardship gained through farm life, we learned the land is regenerative and will give back more than it takes if cared for properly. We are honored for the opportunity to conserve this

diverse ecosystem through the Skagit Land Trust. A new chapter of stewardship will help protect these critical habitats that are on the edge of environmental peril. Our gratitude is beyond measure to the Trust and the greater Samish Community for joining our vision of preserving this fertile land in perpetuity. We celebrate with the Trust and the Samish community this dream come true.”

A steering committee helped secure funds and generate wide support for the project. They include Samish Island residents Thais and Howard Armstrong, Mike and Liz Bart, John and Kristen Boyes, Charlene Day, Fonda Downs, Roger and Kris Goodan, Steve and Gail Hopley, Chuck Howell, Lisa McShane, Therese Ogle, Marne Pennington, and Jim Zielinski. Skagit Land Trust board members Jim Glackin, Mark Hitchcock, Rusty Kuntze also served on the committee.


Executive Director Molly Doran with Samish Flower Farm steering committee members on the beach.

“With only eight months to raise the funds needed, the committee had to work quickly. They were amazing! We could not have done this without them. They helped lead tours, presented informational booths at summer events, supported challenge matches, and talked to just about everyone who cared about preserving the character of the entrance to Samish Island,” said Skagit Land Trust’s Development Director Laura Hartner.


Samish Flower Farm steering committee members at the Samish Fourth of July parade.

The accelerated timeline also meant the Trust needed to purchase the property before they received all of the funds in hand, so they reached out to The Conservation Fund for a $500,000 bridge loan to assist with the $1.24 million purchase, transaction, and stewardship costs of the project.

“Skagit Land Trust’s ability to quickly garner the support of so many individuals and groups to ensure that this ecologically valuable shoreline forest will be protected, speaks to the close knit community,” said Caitlin Guthrie, Associate Director of The Conservation Fund’s Conservation Loans program. “The Conservation Fund is honored to support this critical conservation effort by providing a loan to enable its timely purchase.”

Trail to Beach

The Samish Flower Farm is also adjacent to the Samish Island Great Blue Heron colony, which has been established since at least the 1930s. While the rookery became abandoned in 2017, herons can return to nesting sites for up to 10 years, and herons still use this area for foraging and roosting. By protecting this property, the Trust ensures that additional nesting trees are available to the herons as well as a protected buffer area to prevent disturbances.

“Generations of Islanders and visitors have traveled through the property and felt a sense of place and history,” said steering committee member, Mark Hitchcock. “Older forests like these are disappearing. These older forests next to tidelands and bays, are why we are so lucky to hear Great Horned Owls at night and see herons fishing during the day. Herring, crab and juvenile Chinook Salmon rely on the bay’s eelgrass beds, and that in turn may help our resident Orcas. I am so pleased we joined together with the Trust as a community, to conserve this land.”

For more information on the Samish Flower Farm, please visit the property page. There will be a work party and nature walk of te property on March 9th, click for more details. Stay tuned for more work parties and tours of this property this summer.

Click here to read an article about the purchase in the Skagit Valley Herald.

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