Ebey's Landing Turns 30 When President Carter signed into law the bill establishing Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve on Washington's Whidbey Island in 1978, he did more than just create a new unit of the National Park Service (NPS); he created a new type of park. Ebey’s Landing differs from other park units in that most of the lands within it remain in private ownership and it’s managed through partnerships and overseen by a Trust consisting of representatives from the NPS, state, county, and local governments as well as residents from the area. While the NPS does own several parcels within the Reserve as does Washington State Parks and the Nature Conservancy, the brunt of the land remains privately owned. On many of these lands the NPS purchases development rights assuring that they maintain their historic and scenic integrity. And many of these parcels, 5,500 acres of the Reserve’s 17,400 acres are still being used for agriculture, as they have been since pioneers settled them over 150 years ago. Similar to many European National Parks, this model should be expanded here in America to other areas of historic-cultural-natural significance where buying property outright (and taking it out of historic use and off the tax rolls) makes little sense. Other areas in Washington worth exploring for this type of reserve are the Snoqualmie and Lower Columbia River Valleys. In New England, Congress has established several National Historic Corridors, similar in concept and also worth looking into.
If you're interested in protecting Ebey's Landing and in this kind of preservation you can register for the upcoming Ebey's Forever Conference on November 7 and 8. It'll feature hands on farming and historic preservation workshops, walking tours, keynote speakers, homegrown and homemade foods and goods, music, and more. And if you're interested in hiking at Ebey's Landing and other great Whidbey Island destinations be sure to order my upcoming guidebook, Day Hiking Central Cascades (Mountaineers Books spring 2009).