Whatever the ailment, a return to nature is often the medicine we need. Many Bainbridge Islanders and visitors have found such healing among the 316 abundant acres of the Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve, and yet, few know its history. Access to such settings is a privilege. Without any action on our part, we directly benefit from those who have and continue to fight for the protection and health of this land, a source of natural power directly tied to our own well-being.
In 1995, the Bainbridge Island Land Trust (BILT) accepted an offer from the Gazzam property owner to purchase some of their land, which included a conservation easement on the parcel. With overwhelming community support, the BILT, Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District, and City of Bainbridge Island’s Open Space Commission united to pass a public bond that secured a conservation legacy for the island.
The protection of Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve is one of many milestones where the Land Trust played a critical role in the island’s integrity. Other areas under their care include Blakely Harbor Park, Pritchard Park, the Grand Forest, and Hilltop. Of the 1,437 acres of vulnerable forests, wetlands, meadows, shorelines, agricultural lands, streams, riparian corridors, and scenic vistas on the island, more than 1,102 acres are open for the public to connect with nature.
The BILT’s network of protected lands is within the aboriginal territory of the Suquamish People. The safeguarding of these natural spaces aims to honor both past and future generations, and increases resiliency to a changing climate.
“There are so many different sources of inspiration guiding my commitment to the Land Trust, but were I to ask myself the ‘who’ behind this inspiration, my first answer would be my kids,” said Matty Otepka, a Land Trust Board Member. “I want them, and every Island kid, to grow up in a community that places such a high value on nature that any kid in any neighborhood on Bainbridge is just a short bike ride away from adventure in the woods or on the beach.”
In the past couple of years, the BILT acquired sixty-six acres through the Stand for the Land campaign, and guarded four ecologically sensitive and unique properties. Any integrity in our corner of the Northwest is securely tied to non-profit organizations like the Land Trust who are spearheading efforts to hold this earth close. The practice of protecting nature will always open pathways for us to return home whenever we’ve lost our way.
Visit the Bainbridge Island Land Trust’s website here to learn more.