Author Archives: Sandi Friel

BUILDING A BRIDGE: How government can work for people and planet

Sandi Friel and Picardy Shepherd Puppy, Quinnby Sandi Friel

When the time finally came to replace the ailing Channel Road Bridge in Deer Harbor, San Juan County took the high road.

Instead of top-down decision-making, County Councilman Rick Hughes encouraged Public Works to reach out to the community and let the residents guide the aesthetics of the bridge. This engagement process added a year in planning, but resulted in citizens taking ownership and pride in a bridge that they, in a sense, helped build.

Providing the sole access for hundreds of residents on the southwest side of Orcas Island (including yours truly), the Channel Road Bridge crosses the inlet to Cayou Lagoon. The old 52-foot-long timber bridge not only had a deteriorated structure, it was built using excessive fill that reduced the natural channel width by 50 percent, constricting tidal flow in and out of the lagoon. After nearly five decades, the lagoon was literally choking to death with buildup of fine sediment and resulting poor water quality.

Cayou Lagoon as seen from the bridge, with iconic Turtleback Mountain in the background

The new concrete bridge is 80 feet long and restores natural tidal flows which, over time, is expected to reduce sediment accumulation and increase habitat for juvenile salmon, forage fish, shellfish and shorebirds.

The bridge was also designed with an increased width to allow pedestrians to safely cross as well as pause and enjoy the views and wildlife.

Public Outreach

County Engineer Colin Huntemer held numerous meetings at the Deer Harbor Community Club to present possible designs and get feedback. He credits the citizen-based Deer Harbor Plan Review Committee for playing an essential role in the entire process.

The community input included selecting the color/pattern of the stamped concrete supporting walls and a unique style of timber guardrail that pays homage to the old timber bridge.

Weekly newsletter kept us informed

Once construction began, County Engineer John Van Lund sent out a weekly update highlighting the prior week’s accomplishments and letting us know the next steps, including any required closures or traffic delays.

When I contacted John over the Christmas holidays to ask that the expanding potholes get fixed, the holes were filled the NEXT DAY.

Residents were so thrilled with the community engagement and construction process, some brought the workers cookies and sent letters of thanks.

With the bridge now complete, we can enjoy safe passage for cars, pedestrians and our finned friends. Kudos to the Public Works staff for setting a shining example of how government can work in partnership with the people.

Deer Harbor Bridge ribbon cutting ceremony on March 7, 2017

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An Island Winter Wonderland

sandi-quinn-pupby Sandi Friel

Last week we got our first snow of the season on Orcas Island. It only snows here every few years, and when it does, our magic “Emerald Isle” becomes even more magical.

Our last “big” snowfall was in 2014. The amount of snow ranged widely on this 57-square mile island  — from a few inches that disappeared in days to nearly two feet that lingered for weeks. Why? Orcas’s horseshoe shape and varied topography create many micro-climates. The mountains, inlets and fjords that make this rock so dramatically beautiful also help drive its patchwork weather patterns.

Here are a few shots from my trip up Buck Mountain yesterday, plus scenes from winter’s past. Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slideshow. Enjoy!

 

If you’re thinking of visiting or relocating to Orcas Island, winter is a great time to experience a quiet wonderland – snow or not. Contact me if you’re looking for rentals or homes to purchase!

 

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Falling for Orange on Orcas Island

Sandi Friel, Orcas Island RealtorPosted by Sandi Friel

It’s gray and rainy outside today, but my house is anything but gloomy – thanks to the color orange. The glowing fire, wood ceilings, trim and amber lighting create a cozy lively space I want to be in. Orange makes me happy!

Upbeat and friendly, when orange is muted it’s warm and comforting. In vibrant hues, it’s downright exciting — a little goes a long way! Fall is traditionally when we think of orange (see my post Slideshow of Fall Color on Orcas Island), but I enjoy it throughout the year, inside and out. Take a look:

Sandi's madrone branch chandelier

When I couldn’t decide on a chandelier, Bob whipped up this Madrone branch with orange lights. The perfect glow over our table – I love it!

 

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My best score from the local consignment shop – a gracefully shaped stained glass lampshade with colors of fall.

 

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A copper octopus ornament sparkles on my fireplace year-round. If you love something, keep it out where you can enjoy it. 🙂

 

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Another cherished cephalopod: a whimsical print from Teri.

 

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Teri and Marlis used pops of orange effectively when they staged this home for sale. Orange is both unexpected and memorable, and harmonizes with most wood tones.

 

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A bedroom in a listing of mine reminds me of orange sorbet…yummy! In larger areas like this, full-strength orange would’ve been be too intense.

 

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Check out the bold color Teri picked for the front door of our first-place-winning parade float this summer.

 

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An orange Ford in an Orcas field. I snapped this picture years ago when I first thought of a post about orange.

 

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California poppies sunning themselves over Massacre Bay. Blue and orange are opposites on the color wheel, making a classic complementary color scheme.

 

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Wild Orange Honeysuckle in our yard attracts and feeds hummingbirds.

 

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Critters come in orange too! Here, a poisonous Red-Bellied Newt sports a fire orange underbelly as a warning to predators.

 

Orcas Island Scenes

The most prolific display of orange on our island is the bark of the beautiful Pacific Madrone tree.

 

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Orcas Island’s western shoreline lights up at golden hour.

 

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The sunsets from the west side of Orcas are simply breathtaking. The tiny floating island is White Rock.

 

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What October post about orange would be complete without pumpkins?

After writing this post, I’ve decided to I’m going to bring more cheery orange into my life. How about you?

 

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Community Spotlight: Crane Island

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerPosted by Sandi Friel

If you take the simple life on Orcas Island and dial it down a few notches, you might end up on Crane, a 250-acre private island paradise dangling south of Deer Harbor on Orcas’s west side.

Crane aerial label

This quiet, pedestrian-friendly island is accessible only by private boat. I had the opportunity to get to know Crane when I sold a waterfront home there a few years ago. And on a beautiful day recently I got to visit again, this time bringing a contractor to look at a vacant lot I have listed for sale.

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Approaching the Crane Island Community Dock

We landed at the community dock on the north end and took a 20-minute stroll to the property on the south side, seeing only deer and listening to bird songs along the way. We passed by the community beach, the airstrip and tiny community hall that also houses a fire truck.

Road on Crane

Typical country lane on Crane Island

Circling around the 50-acre nature preserve, we arrived at our destination – a pristine 2-acre waterfront lot purchased in the 1960s when Crane was first platted.

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View from the 2-acre Crane Island waterfront lot listed for only $199k  Click for details

Many Crane properties are held for generations as a summer getaway. There are only a few full time folks on the island, and residents are affectionately known as Craniacs. I asked one full-timer what’s the best part about living on Crane. Her answer was multi-faceted:

Five Reasons To Love Crane, as told by a Craniac:

  1. Surrounded by natural beauty
  2. Nature preserve
  3. Sense of community – we train for fires and first aid together. One of the most organized fire protection efforts on an outer island.
  4. Feels remote but it’s quite convenient to Deer Harbor and Orcas Landing groceries, restaurants and ferry.
  5. We have a community center with a new ping pong table!

 

If you feel tempted by the simple life on Crane Island, and think you have what it takes to be a Craniac, contact me!

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A Dog’s Life on Orcas Island – Part 2

Sandi Friel and Picardy Shepherd Puppy, QuinnPosted by Sandi Friel

Named one of Sunset Magazine’s Top 10 Dog Friendly Escapes, Orcas Island is truly a pup’s paradise for those lucky enough to live here. My previous post focused on the multitude of outdoor adventures available to dogs. Now let’s look at some of the community resources supporting our four-legged friends.

Pawki's for pets

Who needs Petsmart when you have homegrown Pawki’s

Pawki’s for Pets   
The first retail shop you see when you come into Eastsound isn’t an art gallery or clothing boutique…it’s Pawki’s! Here’s you’ll find a full line of healthy natural pet foods and treats, a huge variety of toys big and small, grooming items and all sorts of accessories.

Eastsound dog park

Misty morning at the dog park

Orcas Off Leash Area (OOLA)
With the help of many donors including local contractors and architects, OOLA volunteers created a much-needed Dog Park near the Eastsound airport on land loaned by the Port of Orcas. They’re now working with county officials to secure a permanent location nearby for an even bigger and better dog park. See the concept sketches here. Very exciting!

Pet Parade
A fundraising event for the past 25 years, animals of all types march in the annual Pet Parade and compete for a chance to win quirky awards – including Best Smile (sponsored by a dentist), Best Built (sponsored by the builder’s association) and Best Fed (sponsored by the grocery store). The event supports Kaleidoscope, a provider of childcare and preschool.

2014 mayor of Eastsound

“Jack” 2014 Mayor of Eastsound

Honorary Mayor of Eastsound
Maybe you don’t have political aspirations but perhaps your dog does? Another creative annual fundraising event (this one for Children’s House, a childhood early-learning center), the Eastsound Mayoral Race frequently features canine candidates. It’s a chance to give your pooch some notoriety while raising money for a good cause. One year our mayor was a cow.

Kelly Puccio of All The Happy Dogs

Kelly Puccio of All The Happy Dogs, a dog-walking, sitting, adventuring and training service

Pet Care – Boarding – Grooming
In addition to a vet clinic practicing both eastern and western medicine, Orcas has a variety of options for boarding and grooming (see partial list here.) Be sure to check the menu of services offered by Eastsound Kennels and All The Happy Dogs.

Orcas Animal Protection Society
No pet-friendly list would be complete without mentioning the Orcas Animal Protection Society (OAPS). Run by a dedicated group of volunteers and supported by donations, the shelter helps re-home animals, find lost owners, provides spay-neuter assistance, education, and offers classes: puppy socialization, basic obedience and agility classes.

 

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerAre you thinking of moving to Orcas and want to know more about resources for your dog-friendly lifestyle? Contact me — I can help!

 

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A Dog’s Life on Orcas Island – Part 1

Sandi Friel with Leonberger MurphyPosted by Sandi Friel

When Bob and I relocated from Florida to Orcas Island, our dog Murphy was 5-1/2 years old. That might be considered young for many dogs, but for Leonbergers who have an average lifespan of seven years, Murphy’s best days had passed. Or so we thought.

Murph turned out to be like Robert Moran of Rosario Resort and Moran State Park fame. Moran arrived on Orcas at 47 years old in such poor health that his doctors didn’t expect him to live to see 50. Of course Moran outlived all his docs. Orcas Island’s low-stress, fresh-air, outdoorsy lifestyle inspired the retired shipbuilder to live another 39 years!

Likewise our Murphy lived almost another full Leonberger lifespan after we moved to Orcas. Hiking Turtleback Mountain and Moran Park, paddling in the cool water off North Beach, patrolling the property for deer, driving around the island in his papa’s pickup to visit friends and collect hugs and biscuits, enjoying the temperate Northwest climate: Murphy had a lot to live for here on Orcas. The healthy, adventure-filled and extremely dog-friendly island kept him going well past what would be, in human years, his 100th birthday.

Murphy trotted off to Fiddler’s Green this past August at age 13. The following are a few of the many wonderful island moments Murphy and dogs like him have available here on Orcas. There’s also a shot of our new puppy Quinn, as he eases into the island lifestyle with his first boat ride.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we take a closer look at some of the island’s pet-friendly perks!

 

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An Adventure-Filled Vacation Without Leaving Home

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi

One of the great aspects of living in an outdoor destination like Orcas Island is that people of all ages love to visit. There are so many fun things to do here that even teens who are normally glued to the virtual world of their smartphones and other gadgets find enough real life adventure to stay entertained.

In mid August my father-in-law and 16-year-old niece trekked out from back east to see us. Bob and I took the opportunity to unplug and enjoy a vacation in our own backyard. We packed a month’s worth of activities into a week, ate fresh-caught seafood almost every night and were reminded all over again why we chose to live in this far out northwest paradise. Our family photo album tells the story – click a photo to start the slideshow:

 

If this type of adventurous lifestyle appeals to you, I’d love to help you make it a reality. I specialize in helping people in all phases of life move to Orcas Island. Contact me and let’s begin!

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Beauty from the Trash Bin: the Refined Art of Recycling

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerPosted by Sandi Friel The Exchange Recycled Art Show on Orcas Island

Orcas Island draws many gifted, resourceful, environmentally conscious people to our little community. So events like the yearly display of art made entirely of recycled items, naturally fit the creative island vibe. The 15th annual A.R.T. (Appropriate Recycling Technology) Show kicked off last Friday at Enzo’s Café in downtown Eastsound. Aficionados gathered in the gallery/eatery raved about both the quality of the artwork and fresh pizza spread.

The 2015 Recycled Art Show on Orcas Island

Opening night at the 2015 Recycled Art Show at Enzo’s Cafe

The show’s serious side is that it’s also serving as a fundraiser to help re-build The Exchange, our sorely missed local reuse center, which we lost to an accidental fire in 2013. According to the Orcas Recycling Services team, construction plans and permits are progressing nicely, and the new Exchange is slated to reopen later this year.

Recycled Art - white wolf by Alise Antonio

A white wolf created by recycled-materials artist Elise Antonio

Past A.R.T. shows have included lots of items found at the Exchange itself. But with the Exchange temporarily out of commission, folks were encouraged to make use of what they have lying around the house. A majority of this year’s best pieces were created by recycled-materials artist Elise Antonio, from Seattle. Over the past year she’s experimented with cardboard, paper grocery bags and recycled wood. Elise uses nature as her inspiration, and I loved her white wolf!

Undersea scene - by recycled-materials artist Alise Antonio

An undersea scene, also by Elise Antonio

Other pieces were created using discarded toys and bits of what most people would consider trash. While I can’t draw, paint or carve, I have plenty of raw materials like this around the property just waiting to be recycled into something… Maybe attacking my junk drawer with a glue gun and some inspiration could create art!

Have you created anything artistic out of ordinary trash? Plan to enter it in next year’s Recycled Art Show!

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Five Things I Love About Shaw Island

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerPosted by Sandi Friel

I admit: I lived in the San Juans for years before ever having set foot on 7.7-square-mile Shaw Island, the smallest of our ferried islands. My first introductory trip was back in 2011 when I posted a blog about missing the ferry back to Orcas. It was a whirlwind visit that showed me a few Shaw “scenes” but didn’t really give me its flavor.

That changed recently when I was invited to list a property for sale on Shaw. In getting to know the property owners and speaking to a few other residents, I’ve since become more familiar (and enamored) with this quirky island that 240 people call home. Here are a few aspects that now come to mind when I think of Shaw:

  1. Shaw Island General Store

    The tiny General Store at the ferry landing, open May through through September

    It’s quiet. Really quiet. If you really want to get away from it all, Shaw is the place for you. The fact that there are no restaurants, hotels or even a grocery store (except in the summer) keeps residents down to a minimum and tourism almost non-existent. It’s a minimalist lifestyle focused on the necessities and simple pleasures of life.

  2. 303 Copper Hill Lane, Shaw Island

    The quiet life of Shaw Island within reach: This cedar cabin on 5 acres is listed at just $299k. MLS 765069

    Remote yet connected. I’m told that the seclusion is what privacy-craving residents love most about Shaw, yet the close sense of community is also tops on their list. To get an idea of how cohesive and active this island is, visit their community website: http://shawislanders.org/

  3. Fiercely independent Shaw Islanders do their own thing. When the state wanted uniform green metal street signs posted, Shaw said ‘no thank you.’ Instead, Shaw roads are discreetly marked with rustic hand-carved wooden signs.

    Shaw Island School

    The historic Shaw Island school uses a personalized and modern approach to teaching, outfitting its students with laptops and ipads and treating them to hands-on learning and fun field trips. Learn more at http://www.shawislandschool.org/

  4. Over the years, devoted residents have created — and continue to create — unique community hubs to serve the island, Shaw style. From the all-volunteer library and log-cabin museum, to the historic little red school (longest continuing operating school in the state) and the active Community Center, energetic islanders have crafted a robust social fabric on this tiny island.
  5. This gorgeous sandy beach is part of 60-acre Shaw Island County Park, one of the nicest in the San Juans.

    This gorgeous sandy beach is part of 60-acre Shaw Island County Park, one of the nicest in the San Juans.

    The pristine south-facing County beach is a gem. Located on protected Indian Cove, the wide sandy beach leads to shallow waters that warm up enough in the summer for a brisk swim. Last time I visited, a pacific white-sided dolphin was breaching! There are also rustic campsites, so you can enjoy the beach in the moonlight.

If Shaw sounds like the type of getaway lifestyle you’re looking for, contact me! I’d love an excuse to go back over to this special island and show you around.

 

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Baby Boom for the San Juan Islands

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi Friel

Orca babies, that is! This winter we’ve had three calves born to our resident pods of killer whales. Two of the calves were born to J-Pod, the group that spends the most time around the San Juan Islands. The third baby belongs to L-Pod, the largest of our three pods of Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW).

Every new addition to our local pods is awesome news, because this population has been in trouble. The Southern Residents were listed under the Endangered Species Act back in 2005, but the population has continued to decline and there haven’t been any surviving calves born since 2012. So these three blushing babies (whale calves are born with a pink hue on their white parts) are most welcome.

Christmas orca calf J50

Newborn J50 with her mom, J16, and big brother, J26. Photo courtesy of Center for Whale Research.

The first calf to show up, J50, was just the Christmas present all our local orca fans were wishing for. This little one was born right around December 25th in the protected waters of East Sound. (You might remember Teri’s post reporting a sighting of the new calf during her Christmas cruise.) Making the present even better for JPod is that J50 (it’s a tough ocean out there, so baby orcas aren’t given their human nicknames until they survive a full winter) is a little girl, and this population needs all the future mommies it can get. J50’s mom is Slick (J16), who is over 40 years old!

There’s definite girl power in orca pods, as our residents live in matriarchal societies. Each pod is made up of smaller matrilineal lines led by a mother, grandmother or, as is the case with Jpod, by a great-grandmother. In J-pod, that’s J2, Granny, the best-known wild whale in the world, who researchers believe is around 104 years old!

killer whale baby J51 and mom J19

Baby J51 alongside mom. Photo courtesy of Center for Whale Research.

The next baby in this recent boom is J51, born early February somewhere in the Straight of Juan de Fuca to 36-year-old Shachi, aka J19. As of this writing, J51 hasn’t rolled over yet to give researchers a look at its belly to be able to tell if it’s a boy or girl.

And just this week, on February 23, a new L-pod calf, L121, was seen off the Oregon coast happily swimming alongside its mom, 20-year-old Calypso (L94).

L121 with mom L94

L121 spotted by NOAA Fisheries this week off of the Columbia River. NOAA’s research ship is in the background.

Three babies within just a few months is a huge deal here. The whales only give birth about once every five years, and out of our current population of 80 (a near record low), there are only a few reproductive-age males, and several of our reproductive-age females had not been having calves. Late in 2014, disaster struck the Southern Residents when Rhapsody, J32, a 20-year-old female just coming into her prime breeding years, died from a problem pregnancy.

In addition to the new calves for the Southern Residents, there has also been a baby spotted with one of the Transient pods of orcas that frequents our local waters. Though it’s tough for casual observers to tell the Residents and Transients apart—they’re all huge black-and-white members of the dolphin family—there are actually marked differences between the two types of orcas.

Orca whale spy hopping off Henry Island

My husband took this lucky “spy hop” shot from our boat last year when we were drifting off Henry Island and the orcas swam up to check us out.

Resident orcas live in much larger groups than Transients—if you’re out on the water and see more than four or five orcas together, you’re almost certainly seeing Residents, who sometimes even form Superpods when J, K and L all get together to socialize. A small group of whales seen around the San Juans could also just be one family of Residents swimming together away from the rest of the pod, but if you see them acting very stealthy then it’s more likely you’re seeing Transients.

The reason the two types of killer whales act and group differently is because they’ve evolved remarkably different cultures. Transients travel in small, stealthy groups because they’re always trying to sneak up on marine mammals like seals. Usually the only time you’ll ever see Transients leaping out of the water and doing celebratory fin slaps and tail lobs is after they’ve had a successful hunt. Fortunately for them, if there’s one animal we have plenty of in the Salish Sea it’s harbor seals, so the Transients have pretty easy hunting.

Chinook salmon

Endangered Chinook salmon, favored fish of our Resident Orcas. Photo NOAA

Our Residents are not so lucky. They’ve evolved to eat fish, and in particular, to specialize in hunting big, fat Chinook salmon. The salmon aren’t as smart as seals, so the Residents are able to talk to each other a lot more (each pod even has its own dialect of orca language). They can also splash around more at the surface because they don’t have to worry about the fish jumping out of the water and climbing up on rocks like seals can. So salmon are easier to hunt, but that’s just the good news. The bad news is that Chinook populations have their own troubles—so much so that they’re also listed as endangered. Each one of our Resident orcas needs to catch between 100-300 pounds of sushi a day just to stay healthy, and every year there are less fish around.

Challenges in finding food is likely the main reason our Southern Resident Killer Whale population hasn’t bounced back. Scientists believe there used to be around 200 Resident orcas frequenting the Salish Sea, but that was before a bunch of them were kidnapped for aquariums. And before that, they were even hunted and considered nuisances known as Devil Fish.

So for our iconic and well-loved group of Resident orcas to suddenly jump in number from 77 to 80 is big news. Seeing wild orcas is one of the many reasons why living in the San Juan Islands is such a special privilege. We’ll all be pulling for these new babies to thrive, since they’re carrying the hope that we’ll continue to have the honor of sharing the Salish Sea with these beautiful and complex creatures for many years to come.

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