As early as 1974 state and federal working groups were trying to identify areas in Washington which would be eligible for Estuarine Reserve status under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972. Approximately 40 areas were eventually listed as potential sites. Applying the criteria based on the federal guidelines resulted in a list of ten top candidates. Several sites had difficult management or acquisition problems and were dropped from the list. Padilla Bay was eventually selected due to its unique physical and biological qualities including miles of intertidal mud flats and thousands of acres of eelgrass.

The Governor's Padilla Bay Sanctuary Steering Committee and Technical Advisory Subcommittee established the original proposed boundary for the Padilla Bay NERR in 1979. The total area within the proposed boundary was approximately 13,535 acres including tidelands and uplands. This includes Hat Island, which was added to the overall Reserve area in 1998.

Due to historic sale and subdivision of tidelands, the ownership of Padilla Bay was in private hands and highly fragmented with 1,789 separate parcels. Over the years, the Reserve has purchased properties within the proposed boundary only from willing sellers.

As of 2003, the Reserve owned over 11,000 acres of tidelands and marshlands within the proposed boundary. Washington State Department of Ecology is responsible for the administration and on-site management of the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The Breazeale Family

The Breazeale family was instrumental in protecting Padilla Bay. The Breazeale Family John Henry and Anna Marie Breazeale moved to a farm on the shore of Padilla Bay in 1897. Their three children, Edna (born October 9. 1895), Marcellus and Fred, grew up with a strong conservation ethic and a relationship with nature that later fueled efforts to protect Padilla Bay.

 "We'd all grown up in the area and had enjoyed being children here," Edna explained. "We wanted it kept this way so others could enjoy it. So many places are closed now ­ there are signs everywhere saying keep off the beach, keep off this and that. But there should be places where children can see how things grow naturally."

When Edna retired in 1957 from teaching high school English in Seattle she moved back to the dairy farm her brothers were working. Plans were underway to develop the bay into an industrial park. To the Breazeales and others this was an unacceptable threat to the land and water they loved. Edna helped organize a grassroots resistance, lobbying the legislature and getting signatures. Their efforts succeeded and the mud flats of Padilla Bay remain undeveloped today.


More about the Breazeale family