Located in the central Puget Sound basin, Vashon-Maury Island is passionate about retaining a rural and natural character amidst today’s rampant development. Vashon-Maury is surrounded by the Puget Sound megalopolis where population has doubled in the past twenty years, and natural places are being paved over as rapidly as possible.
Vashon itself is about 12 miles long. Maury is about 6 miles long and is attached to Vashon by a narrow isthmus. Together, they are about 25,000-acres (~37 sq.mi.), with a population of about 11,000. With saltwater shorelines of 51 miles, Vashon-Maury has over half of the shoreline of King County. Vashon-Maury was once a thriving agricultural community serving the Puget Sound market with produce. Now, however, it is primarily a commuter community with many tele-commuters.
The Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust was founded in 1989 by a dedicated group of islanders who were concerned about preserving Vashon and Maury. Since that time, it has been instrumental in the acquisition and permanent preservation of over sixteen hundred acres of carefully chosen property on Vashon and Maury. An additional 3000+ acres, enrolled in King County’s current use taxation program (the Public Benefit Rating System), are protected and being stewarded by private landowners.
In 1998, the Land Trust was able to buy the little building, now the Land Trust Building, on Bank Road between the Senior Center and Fire Station. The Land Trust building houses our office and is the venue for Land Trust educational programs as well as being available for individuals and community groups to rent for a host of programs and events.
The Land Trust is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that relies on membership dues, contributions, fundraisers and grants to carry on its work. The Land Trust has two full time and three part time staff people. Tom Dean is the executive director.
The mission of the Land Trust is to preserve natural ecosystems and the rural character of Vashon Maury Island. In a sense, that includes most of the island. But, in the reality of limited funding resources, the Land Trust has focused on the most critical habitat areas and unique ecosystems. The Land Trust was founded to organize the purchase of the Whispering Firs Bog near the Episcopal Church. It is a fragile and special place, unlike any other on the island. From that beginning, the Land Trust has continued to protect the island’s major ponds, salmon-bearing streams, shoreline areas, and diverse forests. While maintaining undeveloped open space is an important goal, the highest marks in the Land Trust’s ranking system are given for habitat areas that are unique on the island and help maintain biological diversity.
There are crucial partnerships that have made this work possible. Many successful projects have resulted from collaborations with the Vashon Park District, King County, and the Audubon Society, here on Vashon, and with larger environmental organizations off the island such as the Cascade Land Conservancy. Through coordinated efforts with these partners, the Land Trust maintains a variety of arrangements concerning property ownership, management, stewardship, and restoration efforts on the many, and ever expanding list of, island preserves.
While buying a piece of land is the most glamorous activity of the Land Trust, there are other quieter ways in which we work to fulfill our mission. One of these is community education. Recognizing that we can never buy enough land to have a major impact, we have developed an active education program to teach islanders about their natural surroundings and to become good stewards of their own lands. The Land Trust hosts classes and presentations on such varied topics as native plant identification, birding, salmon stream monitoring, island geology and groundwater, forest stewarship, and other ecological topics.