Transition of Four Springs Lake Preserve to Island County Parks
Prior to 1998, the Four Springs property was owned by the Natoli family. In October of 1998, Friends of Camano Island Parks (FOCIP) met with them to discuss the sale of their property to Island County.
Reaching an agreement, FOCIP then sponsored the 50 acre property, excluding buildings, as a Conservation Futures Project. FOCIP additionally conducted a fund raising project to cover the cost of the buildings between the summer of 2000 and spring of 2001. The sale finalized in late spring of 2001.
Subsequently FOCIP members and the Island County Parks supervisor developed the guidelines and mission statement for the new acquisition. Work began to prepare the property as a public day-use park and an event/conference reservation area.
Upgrading of the building facilities for reservation use began in 2004, using Island County funds. FOCIP has donated furnishings, trail signage, and contributed maintenance services as well. The park opened in November of 2004, and building reservations started in May of 2005.
Four Springs Lake Preserve Mission Statement
To preserve and protect the diverse natural features off this Camano Island County property, its flora, fauna, and the ecosystems that support this habitat.
To provide opportunities for low impact public use of trails, buildings and grounds for education, community activities and outdoor enjoyment while complementing the special attributes of this preserve.
To balance the use of Four Springs Lake Preserve through the development of guidelines that address adequate revenues to support preservation, improvement, and administration of the facility and natural habitat.
History of the Four Springs Lake Preserve Land
The agricultural heritage of Camano Island stretches back thousands of years to a time of glacial-till deposits and old growth trees that burned or decayed and fell. These downed giants, along with layers of naturally composted undergrowth, created a rich soil that attracted immigrant farmers and their families. Four Springs Lake Preserve is typical of this natural farmland on the island.
A fire roared through the area in the mid-1800s but little is known about this particular property prior to 1900. According to residents here at the time, lightning ignited another fire about 1910, leaving huge stumps and debris smoldering for a long time. About the time of the fire, the area seems to have been part of a homestead parcel associated with one Sam Lindsey. The next owner was a Seattle man, Al Smith, who bought 40 acres of the parcel. Mr. Smith used the property on weekends and vacations, living in a one-room house .
In 1944, E.H. [Bud] and Catherine Jamison were able to buy the place for just several hundred dollars in back taxes. Although there was no well or electricity, the Jamisons added on two rooms, and moved into the house from Seattle in 1948. Because four springs ran through the property, Jamison mini-diked the waters to make a pond for his children.
Their son, Bud Jr., acquired a few head of cattle for a Future Farmers of America project while his mother Catherine maintained a large garden, canning most of their food from their own produce. She also gained notoriety as “the bird lady” because she bred and raised several hundred canaries. Bud Sr. worked at the sawmill at the then logging town of Camano City.
Although they started excavations for a new, larger, house they abandoned the project when repeated attempts to drill a well failed. [the excavation depression is still visible by the small corral]. They returned to Seattle in 1951, selling the land to Henning Sandberg the next year.
Henning gave the 40 acres to his son Albert, who continued and expanded the practice of raising cattle. He enlarged the dike to create a better water source and increased the herd to 55 white-faced cattle, enough to qualify as “open space agriculture” for tax purposes. Albert and his wife, Nelda, also kept some dairy cattle to supply their own needs and a few of their neighbors’.
Twenty-five years later, Royce and Rhea Natoli purchased the 40 acres. As owners before them had done, these Seattleites spent weekends and vacations on their Camano Island property. For the next 14 to 16 years, they steadily improved the land by clearing fallen trees and underbrush, fortifying and enlarging the pond. In 1990 they retired and moved onto their holding.
That same year, Royce built the house that is now a part of Four Springs Lake Preserve. With a permanent residence, finally including a well and electricity, the Natolis stepped up the pace of improvements. They cleared more trees from the pond, removed invasive aquatic growth, protected the marshland areas and re-seeded pastures.
Research by the Natolis indicated that the original barn was built in the early 1900s to house draft horses used in logging on the island. They repaired and extended this solid old barn, building a new corral for the cattle that they too kept on the property.
In 1993, Royce and Rhea noted that 20 acres to the east were being logged. They were able to buy 10 acres of this former strawberry farm, increasing their acreage to the present 50 acres.
The transformation of the property into a public park continues a century-old tradition by preserving our agricultural heritage on Camano Island.