The Kelsey Transformation
Members of a Girl Scout troop volunteer at Kelsey

Whatcom Land Trust’s Kelsey property is located in Ferndale just to the northeast of Lake Terrell. Kelsey is the second property ever to be donated to the Whatcom Land Trust. The parcel of land was originally a farmstead until it was purchased by Ruth Kelsey in 1968. Ruth was an art teacher and used the land as a way to escape from busy city life. After land developers started to take an interest in the property, however, Ruth realized it needed to be protected. In 1992, she made the decision to donate the Kelsey property to Whatcom Land Trust. The transformation of Kelsey has been a labor of love.

After it was donated, the Land Trust removed some of the leftover building structures on the property, but not much other significant work was done. In recent years Kelsey has been a flurry of conservation and stewardship. Longtime Volunteer Land Steward Janet Murray stepped up to the plate with her dedication and commitment to the Kelsey property. After taking a stewardship course hosted by the Washington Native Plant Society, Janet applied for and received a grant through the organization to complete a restoration project on Kelsey. It was small in size, removing reed canary grass and restoring a vernal pool on the property, though a lot of hours and sweat were involved.

A beaver dam on the Kelsey Property

The work didn’t stop there though. In 2018 Whatcom Land Trust applied for a grant from the American Forests Global ReLeaf program, in partnership with the Alcoa Foundation, to complete an acre of habitat restoration on Kelsey. The grant funded the planting of 700 hundred trees on a 1-acre stretch along Butler Creek. At the same time, Kelley Insurance contacted the Land Trust about donating native plants, in addition to their staff volunteering to put them in the ground during a work party. This donation allowed for an added 200 trees on an additional quarter-acre of land to be restored. The 900 trees on 1.25 acres along Butler Creek were planted over a series of three work parties. In 2019 the Land Trust applied for (and received) the same grant to plant even more trees on Kelsey, as well as a separate grant from the Alcoa Foundation that will fund restoration work on Whatcom Land Trust properties along the Lower Middle Fork of the Nooksack River.

See Kelsey’s transformation: Volunteers help plant trees at Kelsey

Kelsey is a property filled with life. Wood duck boxes and bat boxes at Kelsey are often occupied, and the creek which runs through the middle of the property provides spawning habitat for Chum salmon and other native species. Beavers have come and gone over the years, but a new dam along Butler Creek was just built within the last two years, which in turn supports the salmon, ducks, bats, and other species. The property was also used for a service learning project for a group of local students, involving the next generation in hands on conservation work. Ruth Kelsey’s gift, Janet Murray’s dedication, and the support of Alcoa and other business partners have all contributed to the Kelsey we see today. The property has continued to be a thriving ecosystem supporting many different kinds of wildlife and offers an important opportunity for the next generation to connect with and protect the land.

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