RV park and resort is also a culturally significant site
ANACORTES, Wash. - For centuries, Weaverling Spit on Fidalgo Bay was the
site of a Samish village. Even during ownership by non-Indians, the Samish
continued to use the spit - with the owners' permission - for annual tribal
meetings and cultural activities. The spit is also the debarkation point
for canoe races.
Now, the spit once again belongs to the tribe.
Samish Indian Nation has acquired Weaverling Spit, 40 acres of tidelands,
22 acres of uplands and a developed RV park that creates new economic
opportunities for the tribe. Samish acquired the property for $6.5 million
from First American Title, which had taken control of the property in
Native American Bank loaned $3.4 million, its largest loan to date. The
U.S. Department of Agriculture loaned $3.1 million at 4.5 percent interest.
"We checked with 57 lending institutions. USDA and Native American Bank
were the only ones that stepped up to the plate," said Tom Sperling,
Samish's manager of Fidalgo Bay Resort and RV Park.
In addition, First American Title "gifted" $1.5 million toward the $8
million project, according to Pam Nesius of Native American Bank. The City
of Anacortes lowered the property taxes for the site.
The sale was closed Feb. 5. Samish tribal council members walked the
property April 2 to discuss possible uses of the site. Fidalgo Bay Resort
has 187 full RV-hookup sites, 1,000 feet of sandy low-bank beach, a boat
launch, a 4,000-square-foot clubhouse, wireless Internet connections, a
store, restrooms and laundry.
Vice Chairman Tom Wooten said Samish may launch an oyster farm on the tide
flats. The clubhouse will be used as a conference center and venue for
weddings and other events.
"We're in a transition," Wooten said. "Our hope is it will furnish jobs for
tribal members eventually."
The site is culturally sensitive. Samish will conduct archeological digs
along the waterfront. Ancient middens are testimony to the Samish
connection to the site. "Weaverling Spit was an old village site for
hundreds of years," Wooten said. "That's the real reason why we wanted to
acquire that land. We wanted the vacant land. The RV park purchase was a
vehicle to acquire that."
In a press release announcing the acquisition, Samish Chairman Ken Hansen
said, "These portions of land are not foreign places to us. This deal gives
us the opportunity to protect important cultural and historical landmarks
while creating new economic generators for the tribe."
It's the third major commercial land acquisition for the nation in three
years. Since regaining federal recognition in 1996, the landless tribe's
efforts to acquire historically Samish land have been stymied by the cost
and scarcity of land on heavily populated Fidalgo Island north of Seattle.
In 2001, Samish purchased 80 acres above Campbell Lake and has plans to
build homes there.
On Aug. 15, 2003 Samish took ownership of 11 acres at Ship Harbor in
Anacortes. The Edwards family donated the land to Samish, saying ownership
had come "full circle" to the people that historically inhabited the area.
The family had hoped to sell the waterfront land for a destination resort
and marina; however, attempts to find developers with financing for the
Samish has not disclosed plans for the Ship Harbor acreage.
Samish, which has 900 enrolled members, also owns its three-building campus
on Commercial Avenue, where its administrative offices are headquartered.
It owns and operates a Head Start preschool and an elder's nutrition
program. It also operates a salmon stream restoration program in the nearby
San Juan Islands, which were in the Samish's historic fishing, hunting and
Samish doesn't have a casino but it makes money from gaming by leasing its
allocation of electronic machines to other tribes.
Looking out toward Fidalgo Bay, Sperling said, "They don't have a casino,
but they have all of this."