What’s In a Name?

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Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve Citizen                  Stewardship Committee

By Pete Haase, FBAR CSC Chairperson

That's a mouthful of a name for a small group of volunteers working to protect an important natural resource right here in Skagit County, the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve. So, let’s dive into that name and see if some of you will be inspired to join us and become Citizen Stewards.

 

Fidalgo BayFBAR Photo copy

We all pretty much know Fidalgo Bay; the body of water lying between March Point and the east shore of downtown Anacortes, all the way down to State Route 20 at the south end.  The Tommy Thompson Trail follows the route of the old railroad tracks that served Anacortes from the 1890s to 1970s. The trail provides public access to the bay following the shoreline from the east end of 34th street down to the Fidalgo Bay Resort (RV park), and then out over the bay onto the railroad trestle to the March Point shore.  A beautiful place to walk and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding community, mountains, as well as a host of birds and other wildlife.

Aquatic Reserve

Here is a not-so-familiar term perhaps.  Aquatic Reserves (there are eight in Washington) are areas of state-owned aquatic lands and bodies of water that are managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources.  An aquatic reserve can be proposed and adopted because it has great potential as habitat hosting a broad diversity of flora and fauna.  Our local Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve supports great blue herons from a large nearby colony on March Point, has large eelgrass beds that nurture and nourish aquatic life in the bay, and both the shoreline and eelgrass provide spawning grounds for forage fish.  It’s a great place for birds as well, who are attracted to Fidalgo Bay by the abundant food sources that can be found in its varied habitats, including eelgrass, mud flats, emerging salt marsh, and sand/cobble/gravel beaches.  Cyprus Island (Skagit County) and Cherry Point (Whatcom County) near Bellingham are other nearby state aquatic reserves.  Reserves all have extensive management plans but no unique restrictions on use.  Visit aquaticreserves.org, a nice website about all eight of Washington’s aquatic reserves.

 Citizen  

“A native, inhabitant, or denizen of a particular place.” The denizens of Fidalgo Bay in our FBAR CSC group are members of the public and volunteers, and there are currently nine of us engaged in this stewardship effort.

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A steward watches over and helps care for, in this case, an aquatic reserve.  The management plans for all aquatic reserves call for stewardship (by citizen committee) that promotes, encourages and enables science in the reserve.  Our team works with volunteers who do forage fish surveys and beach monitoring and inventories, and assists numerous other science efforts.  The plan also calls for stewardship that develops and delivers education about the reserve.  Effects of storm water is one of our current emphasis areas.  The committee has worked closely with WA DNR to install signs identifying and providing information about the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve along the shore and across on the trestle. Finally, the plan requires stewardship to stay aware of proposed activities that might affect the reserve and directs us to review them and submit comments as necessary.  The work to create the round-about on Highway 20 at Sharps Corner is one we are currently involved in with regard to potential stormwater impacts to the bay.

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Committee  

Yes, we meet, talk, plan and listen once a month for two hours.  We do follow some rules, have a chairperson, keep minutes, and abide by an agenda.  Representatives of the Washington Department of Natural Resources Aquatic Reserve program and other organizations frequently join these meetings to foster a close working relationship between the state aquatic lands managers and the local community.

We provide a quarterly report of activity to the Department of Natural Resources Aquatic Reserves program and it is always full of results that we are pleased to share.  Members of the committee get involved and sometimes lead efforts that they are interested in, or maybe stand on the sidelines for things they are not so keen to take an active role in.  We receive assistance from support staff from the Department of Natural Resources and ReSources for Sustainable Communities (Bellingham), as well as having a budget for supplies, extra help, and educational materials.Jan28FBARsign

Our work and ability to make a difference as citizen stewards is only as good as the effort of the volunteers on the committee.  We always need more help and volunteers to serve on the committee or get involved with specific activities. So, we strongly encourage you to sign up and serve as a Citizen Steward with the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve Citizens Stewardship Committee (whew!).  We will help you find ways to participate in areas that match your abilities and talents, and help you make a difference in our community.   Fidalgo Bay is a great place to protect, promote, and take care of!  You can contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to let us know of your interest.

Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer!

Checking in with Catherine Buchalski

Editor’s note:  Many of us remember the warm smile and amazing young woman who served as the final Skagit Beach Watcher’s Coordinator and briefly as Volunteer Coordinator for the Coastal Volunteer Partnership at Padilla Bay.  Catherine is now working in Chicago and sends this update on what she’s up to (including getting married next fall!) We wish her the best in all her endeavors.

Catherine BGreetings from Chicago!

by Catherine Buchalski

Two weeks ago, I woke up and realized it’s been a year since I left Anacortes for the bright lights and windy nights of the big city. I certainly never thought I’d be living in the Midwest and working in a 20+ story building, but next month I will celebrate my one year work anniversary with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Management Program here in Chicago. I must say the work is very different from my role as the Program Coordinator for the Coastal Volunteer Partnership. The last year has been busy.  I have organized and facilitated a series of meetings with elected and municipal leaders to address the challenges of shoreline management along a developed coastline; collaborated with other Lake Michigan states to prioritize actions and strategies for recovering the lake over the next 10 years; and strategized ways to increase public access and recreational opportunities along the lakefront from Chicago to the Wisconsin border. Overall, it has been quite a year, and I am so grateful for the learning experiences and new opportunities I’ve had here . . . even if I hate the crowds and parallel parking-ha!

Despite the new job, my time in Skagit County is never far from my mind. This coming year I’m particularly excited to work with my colleagues in establishing a collaborative research and education center on the shores of Lake Michigan. I have already shared many stories of how awesome Padilla Bay Reserve is, and what an amazing group of volunteers can achieve! There is also the possibility of developing a citizen science shoreline-monitoring program, and a host of educational programming that motivates me to work even harder.

While leaving Washington was a very difficult decision, I know from experience that my life is made richer and I am more fulfilled by every new adventure. My fiancée, Wes, and I will be visiting Washington in May, and, of course, a trip to Padilla Bay and Fidalgo Island are on the itinerary! I suppose only time will tell where our journey will lead us next, but I think the call of the West will be too much to resist, and we’ll be climbing the mountains and rocky shores again soon.

What happened to the Fidalgo Shoreline Academy?

FSA logo trnspNo, you didn’t miss it. 

The Friends Board made the decision to move our annual symposium from spring to a fall date.  We plan to host the 2017 Fidalgo Shoreline Academy in October.  We are also planning to move the event venue to the Northwest Educational Services District building by Seafarers Memorial Park in Anacortes.

Our team of volunteers is already working on plans for the event and you can be sure that we’ll be offering an excellent lineup of speakers and educational displays.  Again, this year we plan to offer a top-notch keynote speaker followed by three sessions each offering three interesting topic choices.  Each session will offer a choice between two indoor presentations or the opportunity to join our Trail Tales team for an interpretive walk for those who want to get outside and stretch their legs.  The Seafarers Memorial Park and Cap Sante Marina offer a great location for new interpretive topics that we haven’t been offered before.

Stay tuned for more information in our next newsletter.  You can also check our website for updates later in the summer at this link to the FSA page of our website.  If you’ve attended in the past, you should receive an email notification when registration time is approaching.

CVP Matching Grant Opportunity

We need your help!

Friends of Skagit Beaches is one of the funding partners that provides needed financial support for Coastal Volunteer Partnership at Padilla Bay.  Over the past two years (2015 & 2016) we provided $12,000 to support the program that has primarily gone toward funding for our talented Volunteer Coordinator, Samantha Russell, who has done an outstanding job getting this fairly new program off and running.  We need to up the ante and increase our annual donations to this excellent and expanding program. 

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In 2017, Friends has a unique opportunity to double our funding to the Coastal Volunteer Partnership at Padilla Bay (CVP) this year.  One of our members has offered to provide up to $5,000 to match donations we receive to support the CVP program with $1 for every $1 donated.This would enable us to increase our funding for this program to $10,000 this year.  To date, we have received $2,967 towards of goal of raising $5,000, which will become $10,000 for CVP with the match from the grant sponsor.  With donations to date, we have received half of the matching grant and are delivering a $5,000 payment to the Padilla Bay Foundation for our 2017 contract to support CVP. We plan to deliver the second $5,000 payment by June 30th assuming we can raise the rest of the donations needed to get the full grant match.

Please help us reach the goal!  Friends is a 501c3 nonprofit and all donations are tax deductible. Here's how to donate (be sure to include a note/memo designating your gift to CVP Matching Grant):

1. Mail your donation to:

Friends of Skagit Beaches, P.O. Box 481, Anacortes, WA 98221.

2. Donate online using our PayPal donation linkDonate online using our PayPal donation link.

You don’t need a PayPal account to use this online donation feature.  Friends is a registered nonprofit with the Paypal Giving Fund, which means they cover the fees, so 100% of your donation comes to us!

Why support this program?

CVP volunteers have logged over 10,000 hours of volunteer service to our community and natural environment.  CVP has 35 new volunteers this year who have signed up to train as Salish Sea Stewards expanding our base of talented and dedicated volunteers to over 100.  As the volunteer base grows, so do the demands on the program to continue offering service to and opportunities in our local community.  These funds will make a difference in helping to sustain and grow the volunteer program and increase its impact in Skagit County.

Thanks for your support!

2017 Lecture Series Breaking Records

2017 Lecture Audience

Friends is in the midst of hosting our annual lecture series that continues to grow in popularity every year. This year the series kicked off with a presentation entitled “Research and Insights on Northwest Coast Humpback, Blue, and Gray Whales and their Incursions into the Salish Sea” by John Calambokidis from Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, WA. A record of 290 people crowded into the Reid Harbor Room at the Northwest Educational Services District with standing room only and people spilling out into the doorways to catch the presentation. The lecture series team was quite surprised as the prior record was 162 people. Perhaps it’s a widening appreciation of the jokes delivered by our emcee, Matt Kerschbaum . . . on second thought it’s surely the excellent topics and speakers. We are so thankful for the amazing team of volunteers who put together this high-quality learning experience for our community. The lecture series project team is providing a great service for our community, which is obviously well-appreciated.

Coming up:

March 17 – “Sounds in the Salish Sea” presented by Scott Viers, PhD

April 21 – “Exploring the Salish Sea Floor” presented by Dr. H. Gary Green