The Long Road to Permitting the Stage

The Long Road to Permitting the Stage

Anyone who has built on Guemes Island or in Skagit County knows that the permitting process is long, tedious, and expensive. That was certainly the case for GICCA's Schoolhouse Park Stage.


The permitting process for this long-running project began in 2012. Mark Linnemann was the first of four project managers. A Pre-Development application is required prior to receiving a building permit. The Stage Project site was determined to be adjacent to a wetland and therefore in a Protected Critical Area (PCA) requiring a Critical Area Review. Mark and then GICCA President, Julie Pingree hired the necessary consultants to complete the review.


In the Pre-Development Meeting Notes, GICCA was told that in order to comply with the Rural Reserve zoning requirements of the project property and to allow for public events, a Special Use Permit must be obtained along with a designation as a Community Park. Special Use Permits also require review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).


The first three-year building permit was issued on Oct 5, 2012 with conditions to complete mitigation within the adjacent wetland buffer zone and with the requirement that GICCA must obtain a Special Use Permit.


The building permit was renewed in 2015 by then President, Kathleen Phillips and extended for another three years. After a final six-month grace period, the permit expired. A new building permit was obtained on April 22, 2019 by then-president, Barb Ohms.


Work began in earnest to complete the project and work through the very tedious tasks of completing the Special Use Permit Application and the painstaking SEPA Checklist, obtaining a Reciprocal Agreement with Skagit County Parks & Recreation (SCPR), another Pre-Development meeting with the County Planning Dept., and in March of 2021, filing the required documents, site plans, parking plans, and landscaping plans. Special thanks to the GICCA Board for their many hours of work on this process. GICCA also paid the required application fee to the County of $4925.


Public notices were published and posted that opened the public comment periods for the SEPA determination, the proposed land-use change, and the announcement of the required Hearing Examiner's Hearing for the Special Use Permit. GICCA President, Barb Ohms addressed the Hearing Examiner and was available to answer any questions or concerns from the community. No concerns were presented.


On November 3, 2021, the Skagit County Hearing Examiner approved GICCA's Special Use Permit, with conditions. The complete document of determination can be viewed here.


The building permit final inspection required fulfilling several mitigation conditions in the wetland buffer zone. Stockpiled soil has been removed. All disturbed soils have been either hydroseeded or graveled. Native conifers have been planted. The County has accepted our mitigation measures and on November 9, 2021 GICCA passed the final building inspection. The occupancy permit is forthcoming.


Before celebrations can begin, all conditions of the Special Use Permit must be met. The ADA walkway and ADA parking places are still to be completed. The GICCA Board is working diligently to find the quickest option. Contractor schedules and unfavorable weather are the biggest obstacles at this time.


Please be patient. This project has taken over 10 years since the dream began taking shape. Plans are in the works for an opening celebration when the weather improves for an outdoor event. ALL volunteers, donors, and community partners will be recognized at that time. Thank you.



Remembering the “Old Normal”

Remembering the "Old Normal"


Beginning in the second week of March 2020, the world was faced with a growing pandemic that required the shutdown of all public gatherings. Our “new normal” moved meetings to online platforms and restricted social activities to groups of five or less with required social distancing. Smiles were now hidden behind masks. Even hugs became virtual.


New island residents and part-timers who have chosen to seek solace on the island for the pandemic duration may not fully realize how fervently we all miss and reminisce about the "old normal." But, have no doubt, the "old normal" will return; a vibrant island-life will ultimately prevail; smiles and hugs will again be prevalent once COVID restrictions are lifted. The Community Center Hall will once more burst at the seams with activity, as it has for so many years.


In the "old normal," GICCA would be planning a year filled with activities and events both at the Community Center Hall and at our property at Schoolhouse Park. We would also be working with other community organizations to host events at the campus on Guemes Island Road that includes the Library and the Guemes Community Church. Although it will be a long haul to get through the COVID pandemic, GICCA is confident that we will eventually be gathering and celebrating again as a community.


The GICCA Board wants to remind everyone, longtime residents and newcomers, of the “old normal” and the recent activities that were hosted at your community center properties.
• Weekly Yoga and Zumba Classes
• Community Workshops: Luminary Art, Foraging, Cheesemaking, Sourdough, Fermenting, Fry Bread, Pattern Making, Library How-to Classes, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training
• Monthly GICCA Meetings
• Annual Organization Meetings: GICCA, Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee (GIPAC), Guemes Ferry Committee, Holiday Hideaway Association
• Public Forums, Skagit County Community Meetings, Precinct Caucuses
• Charity Fundraisers and Community Potlucks
• Weddings, Memorials, Birthday Parties, Family Reunions, Retreats
• Concerts: Chamber Music, Folk Music, Guitar, Autoharp, African Drumming
• Poetry Readings, Nature Talks, Documentary Film Showings
• July 4th Hot Dog Picnic at the Park, Trivia Night, Island Talent Show, The Black & White Dinner, Wine Tasting Fundraisers, Woodchoppers’ Ball, Holiday Community Dinner, Kid’s Halloween Party, Trunk or Treat, Island Kids’ Easter Egg Hunt, Earth Day All-Island Clean Up, Father’s Day Strawberry Sundae Social, Fall Festival and Holiday Bazaar Craft Fairs, Guemes Kids’ Science Camp


Until all this can resume and your Community Center Hall comes alive with activity once again, please take advantage
of our virtual offerings listed in the “Social Connections” tab at the top of this page. We also invite you to visit our new Art Initiative website, Be safe, stay healthy, and treasure this caring community that we all share.


And, finally, another reminder that adversity can bring us together in times of need. This January 2021 Guemes was hit with a damaging wind storm that left many residents without power or internet for days. While still dealing with pandemic-life, neighbors rallied to remove downed trees, share food, and help with generators. Our Fire Department was called to duty to assist with downed power lines and trees on houses and cars. We are reminded of the kindness of strangers and the nurturing provided by a small community. Thank you to all who make Guemes a uniquely special place.

Be Water Wise

Be Water Wise

The Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee (GIPAC) has for years been the champion of water issues on Guemes Island. GIPAC reminds islanders of the many ways to conserve and use water wisely. Whether you are watering your garden, remodeling or building a house, or hosting guests or renters, there are simple tips for saving water. A new brochure is now available that contains valuable information about water conservation and the Guemes aquifer. To obtain the water conservation cards referred to in the brochure, please contact Patty Rose at


In 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency designated Guemes Island as being served by a sole source aquifer. This means that Guemes aquifers are the main source of potable water; they are recharged only by rainwater. Recharging an aquifer is a gradual process that takes many years. During the wet season, with its overabundance of rain, plants and trees soak up water for nourishment. Some of the excess water sinks into the aquifer and some runs into the sea.


Groundwater studies have shown that the water in the island aquifers “floats” on seawater. Excessive pumping from island wells causes the boundary between fresh and saltwater to rise. This can cause seawater intrusion into wells and renders the water unsafe to drink. Failed wells have already impacted more than 64 households on Guemes Island, causing residents to find sometimes very expensive alternatives for potable drinking water.


During the dry season, we are tempted to increase water usage by watering lawns, washing cars and boats, and entertaining visitors who are not familiar with the need to conserve water. Conserving water year-round will help protect our groundwater.


Be a good neighbor. “Be an islander … conserve water.”

Rural Heritage Digitization Project

Rural Heritage Digitization Project

Unidentified Children in the Strickland Barnyard, circa 1926.  Photo Credit: Buchholz collection


The Guemes Island Historical Society (GIHS) and the Guemes Island Library (GIL) are collaborating on an exciting new project. GIL president, Morna McEachern, applied for and received a grant from the Washington State Library's (WSL) Rural Digitization Project. The grant funds the purchase of a designated computer, a sophisticated scanner, and associated support for digitization of the GIHS photos and documents in our files. These items will be uploaded to the Washington State Library's Rural Digitization Project. They will be accessible to all interested parties through the Washington Rural Heritage site.


The grant has two goals: first to digitize a minimum of 100 items—from the GIHS collection and second to share the process with our community. We originally planned to have three community meetings to share the process and a final slide show. The pandemic has interrupted the second goal—so this article will be a substitute for the first meeting.


At present there are four individuals working on the project: Morna McEachern, GIL's new president and catalyst for the project, is responsible for the project's administration, reporting and technical aspects. Klaudia Englund, who has invaluable experience as a professional library archivist, helps organize collections, saves them in archival quality materials, and selects items for scanning. Sue O'Donnell, GIHS secretary, is a third-generation islander who shares her knowledge and family photo collection while keeping a record of our progress. Tom Deach, president of the GIHS, fills out the roster and supports the project—he helped with the grant proposal, has created a workspace for the project, and has contacted, borrowed, and is collecting the required data for each item from several island families’ historical collections.

Eventually, protocol for the digitization will be in place to accept and train more volunteers for this project, but with limited space available, the COVID19 protocols demand that we keep our staff to a minimum at present.


If you have photos or documents you would like to have included in the digitization project or would like to volunteer to help, please feel free to contact us. We can be reached by email: or call Tom Deach 360-708-2582.

Neighborly Wisdom For Stressful Times

Neighborly Wisdom For Stressful Times


Contributed by Sally Balmer

“Lead a listening life. Order your outward life so that nothing drowns out the listening.”  —Thomas Kelly


There’s a shift these days of ‘stay-at-home.’ “That’s right, this is a long haul” feeling arises. My guess is most of us haven’t a clue what to make of it: how it will feel, what it will look like in some weeks. Likely impatience. Sorrow. Tenderness. Prayers and goodwill.


The heightening wave of urgency from the news can be hard on the soul. So can all the words— whether read online or from meaningful loved ones— offering an overflow of ‘how to.’ I’ve sensed this often, with some of it resulting in that odd tiredness that can come in a new culture. So much of this is new.


Decades ago, Quaker Thomas Kelly articulated something slowing, and simple. The ‘listening life.’ For me, it’s (finally) meant no checking online news until…later. Allowing time itself to breathe. To hear, then, with an ease: of calls to make, or an email, or a walk among trees, or something new like sending a postcard to ‘a special someone’ in a care center. The listening is a part of doing, being…a kindly Holy Pause.


Contributed by Jon Prescott

Hello daily newscast. I welcome you into my home because I want to know what’s happening. But all these pandemic predictions just make me want to rush to Costco and buy 200 rolls of toilet paper!
Instead, I’ll turn off the TV and breathe.
All around the world, people are ill and afraid, unable to breathe freely. Someday, I too may have this experience.
But now, in this wonderful moment, right here on this couch, I breathe in peace.

Across the vineyards of Bordeaux, the plazas of Rome, and the meditation halls of Zen monasteries, bells ring out and recall us to ourselves. These bells of mindfulness remind us to stop whatever we’re doing in order to pay attention to what is beautiful, nourishing, and healing.
Could COVID-19 also be a bell of mindfulness? Can this pandemic remind us to stop and touch the preciousness of our fleeting lives? Our island community, our fresh air, the budding spring flowers and returning Robins are easy to overlook without bells of mindfulness.

COVID-19, I hear you. Thank you for reminding me to stop. Thank you for reminding me to notice this precious life.


Contributed by David Wertheimer

As I have adopted the need for "social distancing" during the current times, I have increased the amount of walking I am doing on the island as my primary exercise. Whether on the roads, or in the woods, or on the beach, I have come to appreciate that, if we must be more physically isolated from the larger world, Guemes is a pretty magical place to have to do this. In addition, I have consistently enjoyed interacting (at a safe distance!) with the other Island folk I have encountered on my walks, and the sweet, gentle nature of our ways with each other that reinforce the specialness of our life on the island. May we appreciate one another even more in the present crisis, and share our appreciation for each other and this unique island, even as we are called to remember and assist those in other places that may face greater challenges than we face here in our own spectacular isolation from the world.


Contributed by Sarah (Sibley) Banning

At some point, we all shared the dream of living on this island (save for those who were lucky to be born here). We craved the open space, the connection to water, the surroundings of nature. We yearned to leave the busy, crowded city. Now, here we are. We’ve manifested and created the life we wanted. We got what we asked for! We are living the dream.


Perhaps now we are being given the opportunity to dig even deeper into our island lives. Simplify. Forage. Explore. Slow down. That’s what island living is all about. We (most of us) can’t go to work. So, that leaves us time to just be, here, on our island. We can appreciate this life we wanted. We can appreciate all that surrounds us. We can breathe in (cautiously allergy sufferers) all the green, lusciousness of the forests and the saltiness of the sea air, and breathe out the stress of life on the other side of the channel. We’ve got all we need right here. Our loved ones, our community, our animals. We can cultivate whatever situation we want in our lives. Right now.


Contributed by Deb Strathman

Recently, while walking the Tommy Thompson Trail, I discovered a plaque that had been placed along the shore on Samish lands as a memorial to the 7 who lost their lives in the Tesoro Refinery accident of 2010. The title on the plaque was, “Communities Heal Together.”


The plaque revealed that the Samish people believe the cedar tree to be a source of healing as well as a symbol of community. The story on the plaque told how cedar trees rarely survive alone in Nature; each individual relies on its neighbors for strength and survival. Seven cedars were planted near the plaque to honor the 7 lives lost and to provide a special place for reflection and community healing.


This touching memorial gave me pause as I realized how relevant its message is to the challenges we face today. It prompted me to reflect on the wisdom of the Samish people as well as the lessons we can learn from Nature about how to be there for each other. It reminded me, also, that Nature is there for us - to share her beauty, to lift our spirits, and to help us thrive. Ultimately, I believe I was guided to this special place of reflection to be reminded of how fortunate I am to be part of a “community of cedars” on Guemes, where neighbors support each other and help each other stay strong and continue to thrive, especially in challenging times.


Contributed by Barb Ohms from the Holstee Reflections

Support each other. In difficult times, it’s easy to think we are alone, especially with the currently prescribed “social distancing.” Reach out to those you care about — but instead of just trading fears and anxieties, try bringing a positive element to the conversation. Let your loved ones know you are thinking about them and tell them something you appreciate about them. Spreading the love is a great way to feel the love. Support others and you will feel supported.

Adventure to Vendovi – Sept 7

Adventure to Vendovi — Sept 7


Vendovi has rich history, beautiful scenery and great walking trails which allow for island exploration. On the ride out, you'll hear a brief account of Vendovi history and what you might experience on your visit. On the return trip to Guemes you'll hear some of the history of Eliza Island, Vendovi's neighbor to the north.


Save the date: September 7th, leaving from Young Park on the north tip of Guemes beginning at 11 am. Your boat, the Voyager, is a 34’ landing craft and carries 6 passengers at a time. The Voyager is scheduled to depart Young Park each half hour until 2:30 pm. Departures from Vendovi back to Guemes will be every half hour as each new group arrives. Plan on spending 1/2 to 2 hours exploring the island. The last trip back to Guemes will leave Vendovi at 3:45 pm.


Cost: A donation of $90 per person includes the boat ride to and from Vendovi and a catered picnic lunch from Gere-a-Deli of Anacortes: sandwich, salad, chips, drink and a treat.


Payment: Cash or check (payable to Guemes Island Historical Society) at the event—before sailing.


Reserve your ticket(s) for this wonderful outing. Click here to sign up online:

• Click on the link above
• Go to September 7 on the calendar
• Click on the sailing time you desire
• Click on “New Reservation”
• Add your name and phone number (we need to get in touch to confirm your reservation)
• Click "Create Reservation"

You may also reserve your spot by emailing the Guemes Island Historical Society at: or phoning Tom Deach at 360-708-2582 — be sure to leave a message if unanswered! If you cannot make the event, please remove yourself from the online schedule so your spot will be available for someone else.


Gather your friends and prepare for a leisurely get-a-way trip to truly unique Vendovi Island. Hope to see you on September 7th. We have a limited number of spaces, so act early!

The Benefits of Volunteering

The Benefits of Volunteering

An article by notes that volunteering is a way to support people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community — but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. (See “Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits.")


Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Working collaboratively with others in the community towards a common goal can help you reduce stress, strengthen friendships, meet new people, and learn new skills. Making progress on a volunteer-based community project is a great motivator for the entire community. Completion of such a project provides a sense of personal accomplishment, builds community, and strengthens pride-in-place.


The GICCA Stage Project at Schoolhouse Park began as a dream of islanders who successfully raised money to save Guemes Mountain from development. Much progress has been made at the GICCA Stage site and many in the community have been involved at various times. Everyone who has donated their time, money, or materials has the sincere appreciation and gratitude of the entire community.


The Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA) announced some Stage Project enhancements (see related article) that will better position the project for successful and timely completion. We hope that those of you who have volunteered with us over the years (and all of you would-be volunteers as well) will rally around the progress to date, the latest project enhancements, and the ongoing community support to (re)engage with us on the Stage Project. We all need to come together to help drive this project to completion. We look forward to having this lasting resource available as a venue for the many fun and enriching times that islanders can enjoy together as a community.


When it comes to volunteering, the most valuable assets you can bring to any volunteer effort are an open mind, compassion, and a willingness to pitch in wherever needed — with a positive attitude. Please join us.


GICCA thanks you! We look forward to engaging with you to make our community even better — however you might choose to get involved.

GICCA Welcomes New 2020 Board Members

GICCA Welcomes New 2020 Board Members

At the GICCA annual meeting on Thursday, November 21, 2019, the community elected 2 new Board members, Kathy Whitman (pictured here) and Mary Hale (not pictured),  to join returning Board members Rob Schroder, Loalynda Bird, Carol Deach, Libby Boucher, and Barb Ohms as your 2020 GICCA Board.

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Spring Trivia Night, March 21

Spring Trivia Night

Come and enjoy a night of trivia challenges on March 21 at the Guemes Island Community Center Hall


Renowned trivia host Wren Schultz is back again this year!

  • Cash bar opens at 6 p.m.; Trivia at 6:30
  • Great snacks and prizes
  • $10 per player; optional game packs $3
  • Tables of 4; come as a team or join one (sorry, 21 and older only)


Register by March 11 to be entered into a bonus prize drawing.

Seats are limited - we expect another sell-out crowd! Reserve your seat(s) now by emailing the following information to

  • Name, phone, and email of the person reserving seat(s)
  • Number of seats/tables you wish to reserve

Registered participants will check-in and pay at the door. Additional seats, if available, will also be sold at the door.

Upcoming Luminary Classes

Upcoming Luminary Classes

In 2017 Guemes Islanders, friends and family came together to learn the craft of creating lighted paper and reed luminary lanterns. The varied creations lit the south shore of Guemes Island for the 1st Earth Day Luminary Parade. The 2nd Annual Luminary Parade will be on Saturday, April 21, 2018, preceded by this year's series of classes making new lantern designs and introducing newcomers to the craft.


The day will also include a community supper with a fundraiser supporting the Guemes Ferry Trail Project.


Classes are as follows:

  • Teen and adult newcomers to Luminary classes can attend the 5-session Class 1 on March 23, 24, April 4, 6 & 7 for $45.
  • Returning teen and adult luminary crafters may attend the Advanced Class 2 series of 8 sessions on March 14, 16, 17, 21, 23, April 4, 6 & 7 for $60.
  • Children, accompanied by a parent, may attend a two-session Children's Class on March 17 & April 7 for $5. They will create a small globe luminary.


Luminary artist and Guemes resident, Loalynda Bird, donates her time to bring this craft to our community. The class fees cover all materials costs, refreshments during class and use of the Community Hall.


Classes will be held at the Guemes Island Community Center Hall on Guemes Island Road, 1/2 mile north of the Guemes ferry dock. Wednesday & Friday classes - 6 to 9 PM. Saturday classes - 11 AM to 1 PM. Please note that the last ferry back to Anacortes on Wednesdays is at 8:30. Saturday last ferry is at 11 PM.


To register please email or text to 818-497-0239. Check the Events Calendar for information on this and other happenings on beautiful Guemes Island.


This craft will open your imagination and bring light into your life. Please join us.