RECORD D SOUTH WHIDBEY INSIDE Hometown Hero See...A12 SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2013 | Vol. 89, No. 96 | WWW.SOUTHWHIDBEYRECORD.COM | 75¢ Deck the halls with boughs of South Whidbey State Park holly By BEN WATANABE South Whidbey Record Ben Watanabe / The Record Owen Rae helps his father, Ian Rae, and Ted Brookes trim a 10-foot tall holly bush at South Whidbey State Park. The boy will be joined on Dec. 7 by other students at Calyx Community Arts School, which is located in the state park. Everything you need to create a holiday swag and wreath will be waiting at South Whidbey State Park this month, including the ever-present holly. English holly, a vestige of an old industry on Whidbey Island and a decorative staple during Christmas, has taken root in the old state park in Freeland. The nonnative species can be seen almost anywhere in the park — near campsites, along the trails, on the shoreline bluff. Volunteers and members of the Friends of South Whidbey State Park hope to change that with a first-ever Holly Day, a work party to clear the prickly, waxy plant from the area. “The longer we let it go without doing anything, it will start to spread and cover native species areas,” said Park Ranger Kevin Lease. By late November, more than 30 plants were marked with bright pink ribbon tags. Volunteers planned to mark as many as they could find within eyesight of the park’s SEE HOLLY, A24 Land preservation fund saved By JANIS REID South Whidbey Record The Island County commissioners voted unanimously in favor of continuing the Conservation Futures program Monday after hundreds of residents contacted them in support over the last week. More than 100 people attended the Monday meeting, giving nearly two hours of public comment. All but a few speakers favored the continuation of the conservation futures levy. Many said they’d like to see an increase to the tax, which costs property owners roughly $35 per year and is expected to bring in $679,814 in 2014. “It’s interesting that we have a packed house,” said Al Williams during the public hearing. “There’s bigger value in life than a dollar sign.” “I believe it is exceptionally important to my genera- tion,” said teenager Rocco Strain. “As the voice of the future, I believe in continually protecting and maintaining the resources we have.” The board had initially intended to consider placing the program on hold for one year, and reducing the levied amount from $679,814 — the amount collected this year — to $439,238. “It’s seems like if you cut a program it’s because it’s not popular or it’s not efficient,” said Dean Enell, who said he has served on citizens advisory boards for the futures fund. “This runs better than any government effort I’ve ever seen.” Commissioner Kelly Emerson proposed an amendment to the ordinance, outlining the county’s priorities for the futures fund. The board agreed that purchasing SEE FUND, A9 Janis Reid / The Record Whidbey Camano Land Trust Executive Director Pat Powell addresses a proposal to reduce the Conservation Futures Fund program during the Island County commissioners evening meeting Monday, Nov. 25.