Preservation Trust Saves Keel Property on Orcas from Development, Logging
From San Juan Preservation Trust
The San Juan Preservation Trust recently acquired the 42-acre Keel Preserve on Orcas Island. Public benefits include the high-quality forest (including many old-growth trees), wetlands, seasonal creek and waterfall, connected habitat, scenic views.
Acquisition of the Keel property builds on the success of a neighborhood-conservation effort that began in 1998. That’s when more than 60 private donors — including many community members in the Doe Bay and Olga areas of Orcas Island — came together to acquire a beloved mountain bald locally known as “The Hogback.”
Adjacent to the eastern border of Moran State Park, this 30-acre area (now called Hogback Preserve) shares a property line with a 20-acre property that’s protected by a conservation easement held by the San Juan County Land Bank.
The Keel Preserve, in turn, abuts this easement-protected parcel, creating a 90-acre contiguous tract of permanently conserved land that offers a tremendous wildlife buffer area to Moran State Park.
Like Hogback Preserve, which is open for hiking via Moran State Park’s trail system, Keel Preserve will open to the public upon completion of a trail spur leading from the park’s southeastern boundary trail to a stunning seasonal waterfall, which drops more than 50 feet down a rocky flume.
Trail construction begins in fall 2021; the spur is expected to open by mid-year 2022. Watch our calendar of upcoming events for work parties if you’d like to sign up as a volunteer trail-builder.
The property was most recently owned by members of the Keel family, which has multigenerational roots in the Doe Bay-Olga area. The families of Brad and Bob Keel were instrumental in the permanent protection of this gem. They first resisted the offer of a timber company that wanted to buy the land. Then, through a bargain sale, they aided in the Preservation Trust’s purchase of the property. Thanks to them, the Keel name will live on in the neighborhood.
When word spread that the land might be logged or otherwise developed, 18 families stepped up, providing the funds needed to purchase the parcel and to ensure that it will be cared for and enjoyed in perpetuity.