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About Us


Friends of Miller Bay is a registered non-profit with Washington State.

Friends of Miller Bay History

Miller Bay Citizen’s Action Group organized in 1989 to petition the county to keep zoning at 1 home per acre, rather than 3 as the county was proposing. This effort was successful and zoning remains 1 home per acre except in Miller Bay Estates and the Indianola spit. A visit to Port Madison on Bainbridge Island is a good example of the more dense development.

A few years  later, around 1991, a subdivision and sale of a property was proposed near a heron rookery and eagle nesting sites across from the spit near the entrance to Miller Bay and also in a northern bay site that came to be known as “Heron Cove”.  Miller Bay Citizen’s Action Group monitored these sites and documented the herons and eagles with photographs and letters to the county and to fish & wildlife.  They also accompanied officials from both of these organizations to physically visit these sites and requested that the county take adequate steps to protect the rookeries.

Eventually the decision of how to subdivide these properties and how wide the protective set backs should be came before the hearing examiner. The decision made at that time was not particularly favorable to protecting the birds. Within a relatively short time both heron rookeries were abandoned and in the years since they have never returned to these sites or started new rookeries in Miller Bay.

From 1994 to 1998,  MBCAG met on a yearly basis and worked on various projects.  They worked with Kitsap County to address failing septic systems around the bay. Work parties were organized to remove invasive plants. MBCAG also supported the Indianola Land Trust’s efforts to buy 77 acres of upland forest in the Miller Bay watershed.

In 1999, long time board member Virginia Cowling challenged the MBCAG board to purchase 18 acres in the Miller Bay watershed.  This land was adjacent to the Suquamish Tribes’s hatchery operation (on what would later be named Cowling Creek after Virginia) and was considered important for habitat, water quality, and aquifer replenishment.  The board decided to take on the challenge and fundraising began. 

With fundraising in full swing, it was suggested in 2001 that we change our name to Friends of Miller Bay which sounded friendlier.  Fundraising events were held from 1999 until 2007.  There were numerous plant sales, many benefit concerts, fun runs, gala events, garage sales, and anything else we could think up to make money.  Late in 2007, FOMB finally raised the $273,000 needed to purchase the 18 acres.  Those acres, plus various other parcels that Virginia Cowling either donated herself or talked her friends into donating, became the Cowling Creek Forest Preserve with over 40 acres protected forever.

When Virginia’s husband died in 1982, she worked out a bargain sale to the Suquamish Tribe for her house and the 13 acres surrounding it,   including the gravity fed hatchery that the tribe had operated since about 1977.   The eggs of Chum salmon returning to Cowling Creek were used to restore salmon runs throughout Kitsap County.  

The Tribe held an honoring ceremony for Virginia in 2006.  This was a traditional naming ceremony but reiterated their promise to honor  Virginia’s wishes to protect the forest.  Tribal elders and youth were present as witnesses to these promises. Virginia died in 2008 at the age of 92.

For 10 years, from 2008 until 2018, Paul Dorn faithfully honored Virginia’s wishes by making the Cowling Creek Center accessible to all:  Friends of Miller Bay, Trout Unlimited, Stillwaters Environmental Center, the Raven Canoe Society, the Great Peninsula Conservancy, the Climate Club, Chief Sealth Academy, Huxley College, Suquamish Elementary, and Olympic College are among the groups and classes to meet at the CCC. 

Paul Dorn also went to extraordinary lengths during those years to continue the chum salmon run in Cowling Creek, initially by keeping the hatchery going but eventually by building fish ladders in the culvert under Miller Bay road and allowing the chum to spawn naturally in the creek.  In 2016 it was quite exciting to find large piles of salmon bones up and down the creek. Bears were regularly feasting on the fish and then depositing the rich nutrients throughout the forest.

In the years since Virginia’s death, Friends of Miller Bay has continued to work for the health of Miller Bay and it’s watershed.  Our mission statement says:  “Improve our quality of life by conserving natural habitats in the Miller Bay watershed.”  Recently, we completed a major forest restoration project in the Miller Bay watershed clearing tree sites, planting over 500 native hemlock and cedar trees. We have conducted many years of bird surveys on Miller Bay waters and coordinated birding events for several years for young and old  birders. For 25 years, Mussels have been collected by FOMB volunteers for Paralytic Shellfish Poison testing by the county health department. When a 150’ dock was proposed in the upper more narrow section of the bay in 2010, FOMB joined forces with their neighbors to participate in a legal challenge. The peaceful and rural nature of Miller Bay is important to all that are familiar with it.

FOMB has been around for almost 30 years now!  Virginia Cowling’s drive and determination to protect the environment continues to inspire all who knew her.

The Relationship between FOMB and Great Peninsula Conservancy (GPC)  

FOMB is registered in Washington State as a Nonprofit Corporation. It does not have 501[c][3] status with the IRS, hence donations to FOMB are not deductible for federal tax purposes. 

The relationship of FOMB and GPC was initiated around 2000 to facilitate FOMB’s fundraising effort to purchase the Lanning Property (18 acres adjoining Cowling Creek was offered for sale in 1999).  The purpose of the relationship was to provide tax exemptions for donations through GPC’s 501[c][3] status,  to attract support owing to GPC’s reputation and fiscal stability, and to benefit from GPC’s experience and expertise in fundraising.

The county purchased this property from Nancy Lanning and held it while FOMB raised the funds to pay for it.  GPC acted as a fiscal sponsor for FOMB. Under this arrangement, the money raised to reimburse the county was deposited in a GPC account.  When fundraising was complete, GPC transferred the money to the county and received title to the property.

GPC holds the acreage and an additional ten contiguous acres donated by Virginia Cowling as conservation property and is responsible for its stewardship.  FOMB performs most stewardship functions under the auspices of GPC.  GPC provides insurance for authorized FOMB activities on the property.

Some money in excess of the amount required to purchase the property remained in the GPC account.  This money is available to FOMB to support stewardship functions. When money is donated to this GPC account, a percentage is deducted as a fee for GPC’s services.

Another purpose of the relationship was to allow FOMB to apply for grants awarded only to 501[c][3] organizations. Where 501[c](3) status is required for grants, FOMB may apply –through GPC - for grants that are consistent with GPC’s mission and do not interfere with GPC fundraising activities. In 2010 a MOU was signed and approved to provide a more complete plan for cooperation between FOMB and GPC.  

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