Webb Camp purchased, to be added to English Camp
Dateline: Westcott Bay - Mobile San Juan Update News Correspondent Louise Dustrude dug a little deeper and files this report on the purchase of Webb Camp and also offers a brief history of the property that you may not have known about:
Last month’s purchase of the Webb Camp property by The Conservation Fund will add nearly 70 acres to English Camp as soon as the National Park Service has funding available – probably within the next year or so, according to Park Superintendent Lee Taylor.
The property lies along the northern border of English Camp.
Another almost five acres of the property which includes the dock and is home to Westcott Bay Sea Farms has been retained by the Webb family and was recently listed for residential sale.
The Webb family, The Conservation Fund, and the National Park Service had all hoped that the sea farm operation would continue, but all efforts to secure a buyer interested and capable of maintaining the sea farm were unsuccessful.
The Park Service will use funding, left after the purchase of the Mitchell Hill property in 2010 from the state Department of Natural Resources, to purchase 34 acres of the property soon; funds for the remaining 36 acres may be found elsewhere in the National Park system, or may require additional Congressional appropriation, Taylor said.
She said that the primary value of the property is recreational. Except for being part of the land actually set aside for the British military reserve in 1859, which included both sides of Westcott Bay and the location of today’s Roche Harbor Resort, the new property doesn’t have any documented historical significance. There may be archeological sites on the property, but that is yet to be determined.
Taylor said there will be public meetings to consider the uses of the property. Trails will be a high priority, she said.
“We won’t be getting more staff,” Taylor said, and there won’t be any increased operational funding, but there are funds to move the educational camp – occupied in the summer by Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) students and others. The area these groups currently use is boggy, and in some ways its use conflicts with other Park visitors.
San Juan Island National Historical Park draws some 250,000 visitors annually, she said.
The name Webb Camp comes from a boys’ summer camp run in the 1960s by Bill and Doree Webb. In the late 1970s they began the operation known as Westcott Bay Sea Farms, with help from their four young daughters.
Fresh water from Briggs Lake fed the operation via Doe Creek, and the mix of fresh and salt water created an ideal environment for the shellfish operation. Westcott Bay has not experienced red tides in the past, even when other nearby bodies of water have.
The operation sold its first oysters to Duck Soup Inn on the island, according to the Webbs, and later found markets in Seattle, Hawaii, Alaska, California, and even the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York City — as well as drawing island residents and visitors to come and purchase, or even pick their own off the beach.
Doree Webb died in 1992, Bill in 2010. The property has been on the market since 2008.
The property was enrolled in Current Use Farm & Agriculture and Designated Forest Land, and normally its sale to a qualified conservation organization would not trigger the requirement to pay compensating taxes; payment of the compensating taxes, if any, will be resolved when the Park Service acquires the property from The Conservation Fund, according to county assessor Charles Zalmanek.
The normal one percent real estate excise tax (REET) was paid by The Conservation Fund to the Land Bank.