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Original member welcomed back to Ebey’s trust

 Central Whidbey farmer Wilbur Bishop, who served on the first Trust Board for Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, has been appointed to serve on the board after a break of more than 15 years. - Justin Burnett photo
Central Whidbey farmer Wilbur Bishop, who served on the first Trust Board for Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, has been appointed to serve on the board after a break of more than 15 years.
— image credit: Justin Burnett photo

The Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve welcomed back one of its original members this month.

Wilbur Bishop, a long-time Central Whidbey farmer who served on the very first Trust Board 24 years ago, was appointed by the Island County Commissioners last month to fill position 5.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Bishop said. “I’ve always been interested and involved in the reserve and share it’s values.”

Bishop replaces Marilyn Clay, the wife of Coupeville Town Councilman Bob Clay. She resigned in November after serving nine years on the board.

Bishop, who was one of several applicants, was recommended for the position by Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson and his appointment was supported by Commissioner Kelly Emerson in a 2-1 vote.

“Wilbur had served as a Trust Board member in the past and brings an awful lot of experience,” Price Johnson said.

She also noted that Bishop is currentlymember of the Historic Preservation Commission, a group that makes design decisions on development within the reserve.

His previous experience and occupation as a farmer are strengths that he will bring to the Trust Board, said Price Johnson, but his position on the HPC will also allow him to act as a liaison between the two groups.

Bishop, the owner of Ebey Road Farm, Inc., is one of the only people still alive who served on the first Trust Board. It was formally established in 1988, 10 years after the reserve was created, but that first group began meeting as early as 1985, he said.

Led by the late Herb Pickard, the multifaceted group was composed of residents who were appointed by Coupeville and Island County government officials to manage the reserve – a unit of the national park system.

The reserve was created largely to stop residential development planned on a historic farmstead and, according to Bishop, to ensure the continuance of a way of life that had existed for generations.

“It was to preserve a culture that was here and that was farming and forestry,” he said.

Bishop spent 10 years on the Trust Board, serving as a chairman and stepping down proud of several accomplishments, from helping to stop plans for a parking lot on the bluff at Ebey’s Landing to the establishment of Ridge Trail, which is one of the most picturesque hikes on Central Whidbey.

In 1994, author Laura Mckinley penned “An Unbroken Historical Record: Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve; Administrative History,” for the National Park Service.

“Laura wrote about me, ‘His most compelling concern was maintaining a viable agricultural community in Central Whidbey Island. His primary goal was to preserve the character of the community…,’ This is what I am proud of, and the fact that I have consistently maintained these same values over the years,” wrote Bishop, in an email to the Examiner.

It’s those principals that have rekindled his desire to take an active role in reserve planning and management.

It started with concern about a design review manual, which was created to establish consistency with development rules in the park. That’s what got him involved with the HPC and now he wants to return his voice to the Trust Board, he said.

According to Clay, Bishop will be joining a “very different board than he served before.” This is a participatory group, she said, and members have skill sets that are put to good use. Bishop’s farming knowledge will not go untapped.

“It’s an amazing board; its productive and has really amazing people on it,” Clay said.

Bishop said he’s excited to add his expertise as a working farmer but he also hopes to pass on some of the prospectives and values that were common on the first Trust Board.  But above all, Bishop said he wants to add to the group’s diversity and ensure future reserve planning is done with broad perspective.

“I want the Trust Board to represent the community,” Bishop said. “That’s what I want it to be.”


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