Conservancy land inspires artists


Danna Webster, KP News

Artists from all over visited the Key Peninsula in September for a “plein air” painting event. Using the Lind property in Home as their inspiration, they sat in an open air setting and created images. Easels, paints and water colors were put to work reflecting on the open fields, pond, rustic outbuildings and the adjacent Home pioneer cemetery.

Key Peninsula resident and artist Tawna McGraw participates in the Plein Air "Paint-In" held at the Lind Family Farm on Sept. 9. She said she enjoyed coming to "paint-in" for the first time and was excited to meet new artists. Photo by Mindi LaRose

The event was organized cooperatively by the Two Waters Arts Alliance and the Great Peninsula Conservancy. Margo MacDonald of Two Waters said the guests were happy to be there and the weather was sunny and wonderful. Some took time to walk the perimeter of the nearly 80 acres of property. Most of the artists set up in the big field below the family home that overlooks the flower and vegetable gardens. The hope was that some of the images produced could be used by the Conservancy for its publications, and Two Waters would like to have some of the work available for its Spring Fling 2007 art show.

This was the first art event at the Lind property but many people have visited and walked the trails over the years since the Linds put it into a conservation easement in 1993.

“We like to have people come and walk,” Nancy Lind said. She explains that, although the property is under the stewardship of the Conservancy, the land remains the family’s private property; it is not public property. Guests are welcome to visit the land and are asked to call ahead before arriving.

“The Conservancy didn’t buy it. All the easement does is to keep it from being developed,” Lind said. She and her husband, Bob, have no regrets about their decision to put the land into a conservation easement. “Never had a thought that I wanted to break it all up and sell it for money,” she said.

The conservation easement is a contractual agreement that the environmental and cultural attributes of their land will remain protected. That agreement restricts further development of the land with regard to housing, logging or large buildings.

“They realized in the future there would be a lot of pressure to develop the property. In an effort to take the mystery out of the future, they looked for ways to protect the land,” said Key Pen resident Bruce MacDonald, president of the Great Peninsula Conservancy.

When a property has value to the community — environmentally or culturally, a conservation easement can be attached to the property title. The easement is a legal document that restricts the use of the land by heirs, buyers or recipients of donated land. By putting a conservation easement on the land, it changes its potential assets to the extent of influencing the actual value on the property. Taxes are adjusted accordingly. Nancy Lind estimates their current taxes are only one third of what they would be without the easement.

The Great Peninsula Conservancy, based in Bremerton, is a private nonprofit land trust dedicated to protecting open space, rural landscapes and natural habitat in west Pierce, Kitsap and Mason counties. It is the job of the Great Peninsula Conservancy to initiate the easement for the owners, monitor the boundaries of the property, and serve as stewards to maintain the environmental and cultural aspects.

Congress recently reviewed conservancy easements for the IRS and passed a new bill this year that, according to MacDonald, reaffirmed the concept and extended some of the tax benefits. Easements are more restrictive than zoning and therefore reduce the value of the property. Taxes are also reduced.

MacDonald said he sees conservancy easements as the “ultimate property right.”

“They keep the land as it is,” he said. “The Linds are deeply attached to that property. They love it the way it is.”