News & Events

Generous Legacy Gift Will Make a Lasting Impact on Our Landscape

Author: Jefferson Land Trust | 11/25/19

Young visitors enjoy the trails in the Quimper Wildlife Corridor, a place that was a favorite of Karen McKee’s. Photo by Wendy Feltham.

When Executive Director Richard Tucker answered the call from Michael McKee, he was astonished by the news he received. Michael was in the process of settling the estate of his late wife, Karen Rachel McKee — a former board member and longtime supporter of the Land Trust — and the Land Trust would soon be receiving almost $175,000 from Karen’s estate.

“Karen McKee was someone who dug in and made an impact” recalls Sarah Spaeth, Director of Conservation and Strategic Partnerships. “She was passionate about local land protection, especially protecting wild places.”

A project that was center stage while Karen served on the board was protecting and expanding the Quimper Wildlife Corridor and Cappy’s Trails. It was a project she was very excited about and one Jefferson Land Trust still focuses on today.

“Karen had a passion for nature. Her main focus was on protecting places for wildlife to live and thrive.”

– Michael McKee

Fairy Slipper Orchid (Calypso bulbosa)

The Quimper Wildlife Corridor is home to more than 100 native plants like this Fairy Slipper Orchid (Calypso bulbosa).

According to her husband, Michael, “Karen had a passion for nature. Her main focus was on protecting places for wildlife to live and thrive. When Karen and I first moved to Port Townsend, we lived near the Quimper Wildlife Corridor and often walked on Cappy’s Trails. We both fell in love with that place. I think that’s why she first became interested in the Land Trust.”

Sarah Spaeth remembers Karen as a very dedicated board member. “She was generous with her time and energy, serving on committees and volunteering regularly.”

Karen was one of the volunteers instrumental in helping get Jefferson Land Trust’s Rainfest auction off the ground. The Rainfest auction was the precursor to the popular Fest summer dinner on the land, which is our most important annual fundraising event.

Michael remembers Karen’s involvement in the auction and dedication to the Land Trust with pride. “She and a few others worked hard to take something that was a backyard affair and turn it into an event that raised tens of thousands of dollars — enough for the organization to begin investing in land.”

He remembers joining Karen and others to plant trees along Chimacum Creek, improving salmon habitat. “I volunteered off and on when I could. I was teaching at WSU extension, just down the street from the Land Trust, while she was on the board. Actually, I spent so much time at the Land Trust, people thought I was on the board too, but I was just helping Karen out.”

Karen and Michael McKee

Karen and Michael McKee often walked on Cappy’s Trails, enjoying wildlife and native plants in the Quimper Wildlife Corridor.

Karen and Michael remained supportive of the Land Trust long after Karen’s tenure on the board. Humbled by her gift, Executive Director Richard Tucker, says “The fact that Karen and Michael cared enough about the Land Trust and our work to leave a truly transformational gift has touched all of us.”

Karen’s donation was unrestricted, meaning that the Land Trust can determine the most strategic use for the funds. “Having served on the board, Karen understood how beneficial this flexibility is for our organization,” said Richard Tucker. “After learning of the gift, our Board of Directors worked hard to design its use in a way that honors Karen’s interests and her passion for the land. We’ll make sure her donation will make a lasting impact on the landscape and the wildlife she so loved.”

The majority of the gift will be used to establish the Karen McKee Opportunity Fund focused on preserving wildlife habitat and forestlands, including protecting additional properties in the Quimper Wildlife Corridor. This fund, intended to grow with additional community donations, will make it possible for Jefferson Land Trust to move quickly to acquire ecologically and strategically significant land within the Quimper Wildlife Corridor and elsewhere when it comes up for sale.

“It’s disappointing when Jefferson Land Trust has to pass on the opportunity to buy or protect a critical property within the Quimper Wildlife Corridor due to lack of funding or time,” notes Richard Tucker. “This gift and the Opportunity Fund it creates will allow us to move quickly and decisively to secure important parcels as they come up for sale, and transform our ability to make an impact on conservation locally. We’re so very grateful to Karen for her vision and her generosity.”

If you’re inspired by Karen’s work, vision, and philanthropy, please consider including Jefferson Land Trust in your estate plans, or consider making an immediate contribution to the Karen McKee Opportunity Fund.

To discuss your gift, please contact Director of Philanthropy Kate Godman at kgodman[at] or call 360.379.9501 ext. 102.

More About Karen McKee:

A gardener from the time she was eight years old, Karen had a deep connection to the land. In addition to serving on our board of directors, she was part of Port Townsend’s Secret Garden Tour, an instructor for the Clallam and Jefferson County Master Gardener programs, and a co-owner of Roots — the former garden store in Port Townsend.

A gifted glass artist, Karen lived in Port Townsend for nearly 30 years. Karen was one of the first three women in the country to own her own glassblowing studio — September Glass Works. She also served on the steering committee that formed the Port Townsend Farmers Market, where she was a vendor during the market’s first three years.

Karen made a real difference at the Land Trust and in our community. She will be missed.