Notes from Friends

10th Anniversary Issue

Friends of Skagit County                                                                                                            August 2003

So Friends is 10!


By Stonewall Jackson Bird


The work that it has done in those ten years will be looked back on as creating a priceless legacy for those who come after us in this great valley. The great decision in the early years was to bring appeals over what the County had not done: it had not adopted a Critical Areas Ordinance or a Natural Resource Land Ordinance, not yet a Comprehensive Plan. Friends was there to tell the County government that they had to face up to their responsibilities. Like others who violate the law, the County often did not want to hear. Friends held firm. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.

In its second ten years, it may well be that Friends can focus on two of the other sides of the Growth Management issue: transportation and what goes on in the cities. The rural areas will be far better protected if the cities become more livable for more people. Making cities livable means making it safe, convenient and attractive for people to get around by means other than cars. Instead of in-city sprawl like the Riverside Drive/Burlington Boulevard strip mall blight - all designed to accommodate cars and to further their sway - we should strive for more and more areas like Mount Vernon's downtown: narrow streets, wide sidewalks, short blocks, mixed uses, nearly everything in walking distance. These are uniquely things that cities can provide. When cities do provide them, the rural areas are protected.

Making it possible for people to get around by means other than cars is a public health issue: if walking or riding a bicycle is an ordinary part of the daily routine,


































Inside This Issue


A little background, Judy Dudley


So Friends is 10!, Stonewall Jackson Bird


Looking Back, Andrea Xaver


“Good Old Days, Howard Pellett


Fall of 1993, Gene Derig


Continued on page 3

In the Beginning, Elsa Gruber


How it all began, June Kite


Margaret Yeoman

Carrie Youngquist

Trudy Zimmerman


Looking Back


By Andrea Xaver


I was involved with the inception of Friends of Skagit County (FOSC).  It was formed to monitor the county’s administration of Washington State’s Growth Management Act.  The concerns 10 years ago, as now in the County, were urban sprawl, leapfrog development, and inappropriate residential/commercial construction.  FOSC has worked hard to prevent Skagit County from becoming a twin to the Kent Valley.  The protection of lands producing renewable resources, i.e. farms and forests, as well as the protection of habitat and lush scenery were of primary focus in the FOSC’s original mission.

I am very grateful for FOSC’s support given to the Save Big Lake Society (SBLS) when a huge development was slated on part of an old farm at the north end of Big Lake.  FOSC and SBLS were successful in scaling back the size and impact to the community.  Over the years much of my time and energy has been devoted to causes that are consistent with the original mission of FOSC.

However, I have had some sharp differences with certain philosophies and directions FOSC have taken, which led me to withdraw from this group.  I have a continued concern for the preservation and support of long-term agriculture within Skagit County.  Still, we share the common concern of Skagit County’s future.  We all have responsibility for care of this great place where we live, work, or play.  Skagit County contributes to each of us in many ways. ¨


“Good Old Days”


By Howard Pellett


"I can't imagine anything duller than reading a whole newsletter full of old farts reminiscences about the "good old days". Still, the only thing standing between me and a long speech is a deep breath, so here goes.

I recall the first public meeting of Friends at the Rexville Grange. I think it was when

 Continued from Page 2, “Good Old Days”


Continued on page 3
























Fall of 1993


By Gene Derig


I was invited by Barbara Rudge to join Friends of Skagit County (FOSC) in the fall of 1993.  I was reluctant at first because I believed that overpopulation, not just planning for the placement of population, was the number one issue.


At that time FOSC was still trying to finds its way and identity.  What pulled everyone together was the inadequate planning and enforcement by county government in addressing the steadily visible need for a comprehensive plan, in compliance with GMA.

We met in the old Mount Vernon post office, now the EDASC building.  The basic “constitution” of a 501C-3 organization (non-profit) was discussed and hammered out and gradually took shape thanks, in major part, to Howard Pellett who served both as secretary and treasurer at the same time.  I don’t know how he did it, but he did.  And it worked.


FOSC was viewed with suspicion—and still is—by some factions in the county.  Everyone has their own definition of “planning” and that’s what the action has been about for the last ten years.


Initially, I thought it would be a limited commitment:  the peoples’ will would be known, a compliant, enforceable comp plan would be crafted, and we could go home.  As time went on, it became apparent that the politics of land use ran deep and the task would not be merely a matter of making facts known about the advantages of smart growth planning.  FOSC found that the county was willing to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to fight the GMA, which had been passed by our state legislature.

FOSC was often deliberately depicted as the “Bad


I still think, unshakably, that population is the main problem and that unless it is addressed all our efforts, eventually, will come to nothing.  For now though, I congratulate FOSC for successfully leading the way in growth planning.  My hope is that a reduced future population will be grateful for the efforts FOSC has committed itself to.


Gene Derig

























































Continued on page 4



Continued on the next column







































said, Hey, Elsa, whatever happened to Friends of Skagit County?   I was mortified and “woke up and smelled the coffee.”  Woody and I met for lunch at the Bridgeside, and, embarrassed to the max, I put all my time and energy into getting the organization going.   I contacted the people I considered ideal for our original board—a thoroughly diverse group—and Howard Pellett, bless him, got us our 501(c)(3) designation in record time.  Woody was our first president. 


The big kickoff—the “real” kickoff--was at Rexville Grange.  My dear friend, Andrea Xaver, the fourth of six generations on the same farm in Skagit County, worked tirelessly to help make the event a success.  A good friend of the renowned photographer, Lee Mann, she worked with him to set up exquisite photos around the room to remind participants of all we have here and what we want to protect.  Lee Mann was, and still is, extremely supportive of Friends of Skagit County.  The great band Rivertalk contributed marvelous music; volunteers supplied food and beverages aplenty.  No booze.


The event was a rousing success, hugely and enthusiastically attended.  I’d invited two keynote speakers, in addition to me:  Jeff Eustis, Seattle attorney active in 1000 Friends of Washington, which had already been established by then, as had 1000 Friends of Snohomish County.  The other speaker was Bob Hart, then a county commissioner, who  spoke supportively of having such an organization here. 


In my brief comments I stated that Friends of Skagit would always keep in communication with county government, and if or when we found that the county was not complying with the Growth Management Act we would sit down with planners and commissioners and discuss or dispute what was happening to try to reach an agreement about compliance.  If this failed and we determined that the next step was to appeal to the Growth Hearings Board, we would so inform the county in case they wanted to make one more effort to cooperate in complying.  I told them we would never blindside them but would keep everything open—and, as much as possible, civilized.  This later became an issue when a new board member decided that a good strategy was to surprise the county government with our first appeal. 


I firmly opposed this at a board meeting and announced that if the board failed to apprise the county of the plan to appeal, I would communicate this myself to the three commissioners individually.  And that is what happened.  I then left the board, which over time lost its diversity and adopted a bellicose stance.


Before resigning from the board I had conducted several educational meetings about GMA in various parts of our county; these were well attended, by county residents who were excited about learning more of the mission of Friends of Skagit County. 


I returned to putting all my energies into Skagit Audubon, hoping to stem the tide of sprawl that still threatens our unique county.  I worked informally with the founding farmers of Skagitonians To Preserve Farmland to introduce them to my friend, Ralph Grossi, head of American Farmland Trust in Washington, DC, persuading him to come here to meet our farmers and learn what a uniquely rich farm environment is here, so that a bond would be formed and Skagit County could receive support and help from this powerful farmland protection organization.  To my unending joy, this has evolved.


Whither “Friends of Skagit County”?   A sage has written that it’s much easier to destroy than create.  This is probably true.  My hope for the future of “Friends” is that it will grow and flourish and ultimately be able to work cooperatively with county government and other entities to protect what’s left of the wondrous resources of this unique county.


“Friends” needs many more friends to accomplish this.  And more diversity, more public education, more general outreach, and of course, more financial support.  I devoutly hope for all this to happen.  I’ve long since returned to private life and am moving ahead with my own business and career.  But I can still hope. ¨



How it all began


By June Kite


In reviewing the Treasurer’s ledger a couple of years ago, I learned when the organization first started and the names of people that got things going. Much work was done before the actual registration of the non-profit status in 1993. 

I was working fulltime at the time and had taken little notice of what was happening until one day a large housing development was proposed right next door to our property about eight miles from any city limits, real rural Skagit County.  How can this be?? 

Many other neighbors were asking the same questions. It became apparent to me that what the county was permitting depended on what regulations were in place and how they were being enforced.  Once the news reached the public, “it is a done deal” was often heard.

Friends of Skagit County was putting on public information meetings and I started my education on how county government really works and that GMA mandates there be a public process, more than just voting for elected officials.  The time had come when it was no longer government behind closed doors.  Decisions are to be made with citizens’ participation and neighbors’ voices are heard.   

In looking back at the 10 years, I realize there were three stages in which many members of Friends participated in the process the county had to do to comply with the Growth Management Act. 



The vision of protecting the Skagit Valley – its farms, forests, and fish – has not changed. 

Adoption of the Comprehensive Plan took many citizens’ advisory committees and several years before it was in compliance.  Getting Development Regulations to comply took another major effort. 

Every year amendments are being sought to the Comprehensive Plan and to the Development regulations.  Development proposals are being permitted and Friends of Skagit is working to ensure that the public process is maintained and the vision of Skagit Valley is preserved.  This has been done with the support of our membership. 

Our membership allows us to achieve matching grants/funding for the education/outreach program.  We ask each one now to help us increase our membership by asking a neighbor or friend to join us in this work.  Our goal is for each member to bring in just one new member.  How great that would be.  Thanks for your support.  ¨