What happens when the Land Trust teams up with a three-generation Island family and a seasoned local home builder? Well, that’s the story of the Quitslund Preserve – a creative model for conservation that brings together a small neighborhood with almost 20-acres of protected land.
This story actually begins in 1902, when the core parcel was half of a working farm created by Sigrid and Johann Quitslund after their marriage. Ford Quitslund, their third son, inherited the land property and purchased an additional 2.5 acres of the original holding with his wife Eve. In 1980, Ford made the decision to return the land to forest – developing a Forest Management Plan with a still-relevant preamble:
Gradually, Bainbridge Island’s forests have been cut in favor of residential development. Reserving publicly owned land is not enough to prevent this process from destroying the very environment that attracts new residents. Private landowners must be able to resist the economic pressures toward over-development, in favor of maintaining the scenic and ecological value of the land for the benefit of the entire community.
The property was expanded by an additional 5 acres in 2009 by Ford’s son Dana Quitslund and his wife Nancy. Also part of his grandparents’ original holding, this final acquisition includes a spectacular ravine carved out by Dripping Water Creek, which runs across the property and eventually empties into Puget Sound.
Ford’s four sons – Jon, Jim, Dana, and Gary – approached the Land Trust in 2013 to explore ways to honor the history of the family’s 27.5 acres, protect its ecologically sensitive habitat, and meet their financial goals. Then the work to strike a delicate balance between conservation and development began.
Potential conservation buyers were researched by the Land Trust and options were presented to the family. Ray Stevenson of Jefferson Fine Home Builders (JFHB), sensitive to the legacy of the Quitslund land, was chosen by the Quitslund brothers to purchase and develop nine homes on approximately 7 acres in a manner of the property, and involve the Land Trust in the protection and stewardship of the rest of the acreage.
“I liked the potential when I first heard about the property,” said Ray Stevenson. “But when I met the Quitslunds, I knew I wanted to accept the responsibility for the area’s agrarian and family heritage, to both build homes and protect the natural habitat.”
JFHB closed on the purchase of the property in May 2016, and in 2020 they donated nearly 19.6 acres of conservation area to the Land Trust to own and manage.
“The Land Trust recognizes the finite amount of land available to conserve,” shared Brenda Padgham, the Land Trust’s Conservation Director. “And reaching out to other non-traditional partners going forward, to protect our streams, shorelines, wetlands and other important habitats is key to achieve conservation goals. We’re were truly honored to work with the Quitslund family and Ray and his JFHB team on this very special and successful Bainbridge Island effort.”
As part of the partnership, JFHB dedicated some of its resources to helping remove debris from the Preserve, and also helped construct a small network of trails on a portion of the land.
The property hosts an array of habitats, including wetlands, streams, and mixed forests. Current stewardship and management actions include invasive plant control, forest stewardship and conducting camera trap studies, which has revealed flying squirrels really love this place! A management plan for the property is currently in development, and will likely include stream restoration, forest health and future public access activities.
Footpaths for visitor use exist on some portions of the preserve and can be accessed via foot off of Torvanger or Madison Avenues (via NW Sigrids Court). There is no parking at the preserve.