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.
Greetings 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.