Opinion

Small woods grows taller in stature

The Hundred Acre Wood, it’s not.

In fact, if you were trolling about for just the

right words to describe the small wooded parcel – something more colorful than, for example, “small wooded parcel” – on Ericksen Avenue near Wallace Way, you might find yourself in the more remote reaches of the thesaurus.

Is it a stand? A weald? A copse? A spinney?

However small in actual area, the quiet treed acre

referenced on today’s front page grows greater in stature through its preservation by the good folks at Winslow Cohousing and the Bainbridge Island Land Trust. Now protected under a “conservation easement” (more on those in a moment), the parcel thus escapes development and will offer neighbors and passersby a future of visual respite from the built environment.

There are a lot of them around, these easements, and you probably know a few of the protected parcels without realizing it. Most grand is perhaps the Parcheski-Ryherd farm, those golden fields that roll out from southwest corner of the 305/Day intersection, picturesque enough to make even non-artists want to break out paints and easel. The 67-acre Meigs land is another, also on the highway near Sportsman Club Road and under both public and private ownership. That said, it occurs to us that we probably throw the term “conservation easement” around a bit too casually, which, for education and edification, we shall attempt to rectify here. The Bainbridge Island Land Trust provides this definition; the lifeless prose suggests an attorney’s touch, but it is nonetheless informative:

“A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement to permanently restrict certain uses of the land. The easement is recorded in the real property records and therefore runs with the title of the land to bind all present and future owners of the land to the specified restrictions. Conservation easements can be tailored to protect specific conservation values of all or part of the property. For example, an easement can keep the land in a natural state or, if the landowner prefers, allow various activities such as farming, selective timber harvesting, limited building, etc. To be valid as a conservation easement, and to satisfy the requirements of the grantee, there must be specific conservation value protection and public benefit (not public access) inherent in the agreement. Thus, easements are tailored to the conservation values of the property, the desires of the landowner, and the requirements of the grantee.”

As you should observe in the text, such easements confer neither public ownership nor access (although some lands purchased under the open space program have been protected in this manner, and are indeed public); rather, a conservation easement can assure the sanctity of unimproved land even as it remains in private hands. The owner can qualify for tax breaks, and retain rights of usage tailored to their particular interests.

Indeed, the cohousing woodland – weald? copse? – is still technically private ground. But just seeing those trees stand, this year and next, is enough.

Community Events, April 2014

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