Bainbridge Land Trust Plants Flag on Hilltop: Project Gets the Go-Ahead
The Bainbridge Island Land Trust (BILT) just announced that on September 1 it approved the purchase of the Hilltop property, ending a few tense months of uncertainty about the property’s future. The 31-acre Hilltop land, which sits between the East and West segments of the Grand Forest, will connect nearly 540 acres of parks, public trails, and other permanently protected conservation lands across the center of Bainbridge Island. The option to purchase the land was set to expire on September 9. Boardmembers were convinced by early fundraising success that the $3.6 million necessary to complete this parkland acquisition project could be raised over a 5-year seller-financed term.
Less than nine months after fundraising began and despite the uncertainty about the purchase that persisted until this month, BILT has already secured donations, pledges, and grants of nearly $2.3 million toward the $3.6 million campaign goal. The funds raised to date include a $250,000 grant from the C. Keith Birkenfeld Memorial Trust administered by The Seattle Foundation, $500,000 from the Park District, and $211,000 from a Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant.
To come up with the remainder of the purchase price, the Land Trust is counting in part on the help offered by a new $100,000 Challenge Grant for Hilltop. The grant, which was given anonymously by a local family, offers donors the opportunity to double the impact of their gifts.
The purchase is scheduled to be completed by early November. At that point, BILT will begin transfer of the property to the Park District for management.
Asha Rehnberg, BILT Executive Director, summarizes the importance of Hilltop: “The conservation of Hilltop is truly important—for the protection of clean water resources in two significant Island watersheds, for the preservation of wildlife habitat from fragmentation, for completion of a regional destination recreational trails system on Bainbridge Island, and for the opportunity its sunny meadow provides to create play and picnic areas with Olympic views and maybe some community gardens.” Hilltop completes a cross Island East-West corridor of protected land. With the purchase of the property, the Park District plans to complete a trail linking the East Grand Forest to the West as soon as weather permits next year.
The Hilltop property is a remnant of the 80 acres that Prudence Trudgian and her first husband Arthur Hedderly-Smith acquired in the early 1950s. They built a modest cedar home and a large barn, raised three children, and farmed the property there until Arthur passed away in 1966. Pru continued to reside on the land until her own passing in 2005.
In 2008, the Land Trust began discussions with the Hill Top Tree Farm Family Limited Partnership, which was owned by Pru’s heirs. In 2010, after appraisal and much negotiation, BILT obtained an exclusive option to purchase the property.
Until the purchase is finalized, the Land Trust has permission to lead guided tours of the property with prior notice to the owners. If you haven’t already see this property’s five-acre meadow with Olympic mountain views and its healthy, diverse forest and wetland habitats, you can call the BILT office to arrange a tour at 206-842-1216.
To find out more about Hilltop and its importance and about how to donate, read our article: http://www.insidebainbridge.com/2011/06/12/hilltop-a-top-land-trust-priority/.
Photos by Thomas Schworer, Asha Rehnberg, and Thomas Fenwick.