Friends Notes

Trail Tales - looking back...and forward

Trail Tales - looking back...and forward

By Betty Carteret, Friends of Skagit Beaches Board President

It's hard to believe the end of our first two-year Public Participation Grant is coming up on June 30th. We've accomplished a lot and WA Ecology has been very pleased with the work we've done. In a recent meeting Ecology shared that they have seen an increase in public participation and more sophistication in the comments submitted during their formal comment periods. Well that's exactly what we were hoping. Our program is a new innovation from the type of projects they've funded in the past and they like it. In addition, this program increases the general literacy of residents about local history and ecology, and creates a personal connection and sense of stewardship in protecting the health of our shoreline and marine ecosystems.

Since June 2011, we've trained over 20 docents who are providing fun and interesting interpretive programs along the Tommy Thompson trail on a variety of topics. Attendance has been great (an average of 22 attendees at our trail walks) and audience feedback shows the docents are doing a great job offering interesting presentations.  Our walks are open to all ages and the trail is handicap accessible.

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Nature's Interpreters

Nature's Interpreters

By Nancy Olsen, Trail Tales Volunteer Coordinator

It is impossible to walk across a muddy eelgrass-covered shore or look over a wave-rippled bay without fairly quickly reflecting on what made it so. . . what natural forces were and are at work here – and what was it like on some other day in the past?  Those thoughts and experiences are gifts that enrich us – but perhaps it is also part of nature’s survival strategy. Our varied experiences along the shore nurture us, but the thoughts that are triggered are essential to our collective stewardship of these truly wonder-full places.  They are what spurs us to experience more, learn more, understand more, and – for volunteers – to share more.  They are at the heart of the Trail Tales docent program, answering those questions: “What makes this so?” and “What was it like here in days past?” that help citizens understand how their choices can impact the health of our marine and estuarine waters.

It happens in subtle but important ways:

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A Successful Fidalgo Shoreline Academy

A Successful Fidalgo Shoreline Academy

The success of our second annual Fidalgo Shoreline Academy can  truly be measured by the number of positive comments on the evaluation forms.  The keynote speaker, University of Washington's Ron Lindsay, spoke to a full house on the problems of “The Changing Arctic” and how these dramatic changes effects lower latitudes.  He captured the audience’s interest for over an hour! 

All of the classes offered were well attended from “A Whale Called Orca” to “The Mysterious Invertebrates”, “Walking on Fish Eggs” to “Native Travel, the Canoe!” The three classes that captured a great amount of interest were Doug Mckeever’s class on “The Eruptive history and Hazards of Mt. Baker”, Dr. Jude Apple’s “Water Quality in the Salish Sea: Current and Future Challenges” and John Bower’s “Marine Bird Declines in the Salish Sea”.   

Several teachers took advantage of the Clock Hours offered this year and we hope more teachers will participate next year. Friends of Skagit Beaches aims to inspire community members to protect the Salish Sea in the years to come.   

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A Personal Journey of Discovery

A Personal Journey of Discovery

by Docent Ruth Vitovec

Like many of us, my husband and I were drawn to Fidalgo Island by the pristine beauty of the area and its surrounding waters.  However, unlike many fellow Trail Tales docents, we were not born here, nor were we long-time residents active in environmental programs, nor members of Beachwatchers.  My prior volunteer activities had always taken me into other areas of community life far afield from ecological concerns.  I, of course, had a cursory acquaintance with the ecology of the area, but that was it.  So it was with a great deal of trepidation that I found myself starting on a personal journey of discovery when  I volunteered to be a Trail Tales docent, driven by curiosity and spurred by the boundless enthusiasm of my friend Betty Carteret.

The first discovery I made, more of a confirmation really, was of how much I didn't know about the challenges facing Fidalgo Bay and how much there was to learn.  Fortunately, our region abounds with experts and knowledgeable people who willingly share their time, knowledge, interest in and passion for the ecology of our area.  Our Trail Tales training brought some of them to us for presentations on the flora and fauna, the birds, Samish culture, and the history of Anacortes, which I had no trouble following.  Others gave presentations on the DOE Puget Sound Initiative and Baywide Cleanup, the DNR'S Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve Management Plan, and similar topics, which were interesting and informative, but made my head spin and my confidence flounder.  While many of my fellow trainee docents sat nodding in understanding, I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed with talk of phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans. What had I gotten myself into?! I wondered, and could I ever synthesize the torrent of information flowing our way into any kind of tale-trail or otherwise? 

Happily, when the second phase of our training began and eight topics for the 2012 Trail Tales program were selected to develop, I discovered some of my anxiety had been misplaced-I wouldn't have to remember everything after all!   In the course of the next few weeks, our eight teams of docents researched, prepared, practiced, and presented a chosen topic, and I made further discoveries: about the role of Anacortes's plywood mill in our history and its legacy and clean up, how the shellfish and shore birds are tied to the bay, the interconnections between mountains and water, tides and currents, how native and introduced plants affect the shoreline, the history of Weaverling Spit, March Point,and the native people that have so long lived here, and the role that each of these has had in making Fidalgo Bay what it is today.After my first season of with Trail Tales -- I discovered I now think of Fidalgo Island and its Bay differently.  They are not just the beautiful places we call home but also a treasure that is ours to protect so that future generations may enjoy its riches too.   The more that ordinary citizens like me learn about it, the better the chances for others to discover these precious natural resources, the Bay's rich history, its beauty and its wonders.  Trail Tales is a pleasant way for everyone to learn, share and discover.  I'm glad I came along on the trail, and I look forward to even more journeys of discovery as we begin our second year.  See you on the Tommy Thompson Trail!

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Trail Tales Sign Update

If you’ve been out on the Tommy Thompson trail recently you may have noticed that the first group of three interpretive signs are up on the trail by the site of the old plywood mill.  This is where Ecology is conducting its current cleanup activities along Fidalgo Bay.  The last six will be going to manufacturing next week and should be up soon should be here and ready to install by May.  There will be a total of 15 Trail Tales interpretive signs along with two signs being provided by DNR about the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve.  The installation marks the conclusion of a great teamwork effort between contractors and volunteers to provide a lasting educational opportunity for our community.

We want to thank Anacortes Parks & Recreation Department, which is donating their staff time as well as the concrete to install the sign bases and interpretive panels.  Signs and bases were purchased through our grant sponsored by Washington Department of Ecology. We also want to thank sign sponsorship donors who have contributed to support the manufacturing of a number of our signs including, Anacortes Parks Foundation, Soroptimists International of Anacortes, as well as a number of individual donors.

Our technical writer, Jan Hersey of Biz Point Communications, has done a great job of telling the stories on our signs.  In addition to her paid support, she has donated a substantial number of volunteer hours to the project.  Trail Tales lead, Betty Carteret and Jan developed the sign content with help from the Anacortes Museum, Shannon Point Marine Center Staff, the Samish Indian Nation, as well as a number of Beach Watcher and Trail Tales volunteers who provided research materials.  Graphic design is being performed by EDX Edquist Davis Exhibits in Seattle and signs are being manufactured

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Friends of Skagit Beaches

Our Mission: Protecting Skagit shorelines and marine waters through education, citizen science, and stewardship. Learn More...

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