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Jedediah Island Provincial Marine Park: What Friends are for



December 1994: "The people of British Columbia gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Albert and Mary Palmer and Family. Their unselfish gift has helped to conserve this island for future generations. — B.C.Parks

(bronze plaque on the Palmer farm)

The empty windows of the Palmer farmhouse still look out across Home Bay. When we slipped through its narrow entrance on the rocky east side of Jedediah Island the tide was falling and now the broad inner lagoon was dry. A seagull gathered clams from the muddy bottom and dropped them on a rock near our camp. Our tent, pitched on a grassy bench at Sand Beach, is directly across from the old farmhouse which sits on a rocky crest facing the bay. Except for the occasional crack of a falling shell, the place is deathly quiet. There is no one else here.

With camp set up and kayaks securely parked above high tide we set out to explore the old farmstead. A trail leads through Douglas fir forest around the head of the bay and into a large pasture where a pair of unsheared sheep trail the tattered remnants of their winter fleece. At the far end of the pasture neat rows of apple, pear, plumb, and cherry trees still bear small fruit. An old Massey-Ferguson tractor is carefully parked in the barn – protected from the weather by the roof of hand-split cedar shakes.

The farmhouse, once brightly painted, is now weathered to a satin grey. Its broken windows are covered with wire mesh to prevent further vandalism but the building itself is still sound. For 21 years this was the home of Mary and Albert Palmer and Jedediah Island was their private domain. They were the last in a succession of private owners going back to the late 1880s when Jedediah was purchased from the Crown by the Foote family who cleared the fields and built the cottage at Home Bay. In the 1920s the Irish scholar, Henry Hughes, purchased the island, set up a gentleman's estate, and spent the rest of his life living there with his English wife and servants.

In 1949 Jedediah was acquired by Evan and Mary Mattice of Seattle who used it as a summer retreat. In 1971 Mary, with second husband Albert Palmer, moved to Home Bay where they lived and farmed until it was time to move on in 1990. Jedediah was again put up for sale, but this time with a new twist. The Palmers turned down private bids and, instead, offered the island to the B.C. government for $4.2 million, a fraction of its market value, on condition that it be made a provincial park. The cash-strapped government contributed $2.6 million and the balance was raised through contributions to the "Friends of Jedediah", an extraordinary community effort that began with a contribution of $1.1 million from the estate of Dan Culver, who died in 1993 while descending from the summit of K2.