Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February 2010 Waterline



Annual Report

Wow! I’m impressed by what we’ve accomplished this year and I hope that when you finish reading you will be too. Sometimes it can feel as though our efforts are just tiny drops in a vast bucket of need. I hope that it brings you great joy to see that you have been part of a larger network of people, each bringing their own talents and passions to the effort and that collectively we have accomplished a great deal.

The results this year blew me out of the water. I’m reprinting some of my annual report for you here:

In 2009, 11 new volunteers were trained. Of this group, 9 volunteers contributed 735 hours between May, 2009 and January 2010. 26 volunteers from previous classes contributed an additional 2,700 hours in 2009.

Chuckanut Bay Days

Volunteers shared information using displays, demonstrations and dialogue with residents about the local salt marsh, the proposed restoration of the marsh, shellfish and intertidal life of the bay, the water quality history of Chuckanut Creek, possible causes of fecal coliform pollution, and current marine water quality testing efforts, history of the area, and the value of wetlands.

Participants enjoyed the events a lot and gave then “very good” to “excellent” ratings. Many residents said they were inspired to try new stewardship practices because of what we shared with them.

Rain Garden Outreach

Volunteers promoted rain gardens to community and garden clubs on 8 separate occasions. Since its completion, volunteers have been utilizing the rain garden DVD co-created by volunteers in 2008 and completed by staff in 2009. Survey work completed in 2008 demonstrated that most people we interacted with knew little or nothing about rain gardens and after talking with trained volunteers the vast majority had positive perceptions of rain gardens and understood that rain gardens help to reduce water pollution. We expect that this year’s efforts have also enhanced people’s understanding and perception of rain gardens.

Our most receptive audience was the Birchwood Garden club. I recommend further outreach efforts focus heavily on gardeners.

Volunteers are continuing to schedule presentations and make connections with potential partner agencies and the media.

WSU Rain Garden Handbooks have been provided for free to interested parties throughout the year thanks to partnership with the Conservation District. Beginning mid-year the CD asked us to gather contact information in exchange for the Handbook. We are providing that information to the CD. They will advertise their annual plant sale, which will include rain garden plants, to that list.

These contacts may also be used for future efforts to discover what, if any, barriers prevent people from installing rain gardens. Future Extension efforts could then be directed to reducing those barriers.

“Naturalist” Events

Beach Watchers volunteers were requested to help provide hands-on, outdoor education for youth and adults at four events this year: the Forest Conservation Tour, the Point Whitehorn Grand Opening, the Gooseberry Point Beach Appreciation and Clean-Up, and the Northwest Indian College Indigenous Service Learning Day. Beach Watchers volunteers connected with over 800 residents during these events.

Volunteers taught students that healthy forests are integral to stream health and what common sources of non-point pollution threaten water quality, through interactive lessons and observations. Volunteers taught residents about the importance of wetlands at the Point Whitehorn Grand Opening through hands-on demonstrations, displays, and dialogue. Volunteers shared information about beach life and stewardship through hands-on field explorations at the Point Whitehorn event, the Gooseberry Point event, and the Northwest Indian College Indigenous Service Learning Day.

Volunteers reported that participants were very engaged and interested in the information they had to share. During the Point Whitehorn Tour, volunteers said they were talking to people constantly and that people were very interested in what they had to “show and tell.” Beach Naturalist volunteers report that people are always fascinated by the information they have to share about the nearshore environment.

Shore Stewards

An evaluation of the Shore Stewards program was conducted by Applied Research Northwest when the program was regionalized. The evaluation showed that participants improved their property management practices after joining the program. Beach Watchers volunteers continue to believe in the value of the Shore Stewards program and demonstrated their commitment by helping promote stewardship and the program via a newspaper article, a workshop, and an informal celebratory gathering.

Youth Education


Staff and volunteers are working to create a natural resource stewardship curriculum (and grant proposal) for 4-H youth designed to help kids understand what their natural resources are and why they matter, to help them value their natural resources enough to protect them, to help them strengthen their science and technology skills for their future. Staff and volunteers are working with Michael Wallace on this project.

Research

Volunteers collected baseline data on our shorelines via the Beach Monitoring Protocol and through photography. The data is being input to a regional database. We now know about the physical and biological characteristics of these 5 beach sites.

Volunteers also provided assistance with an eelgrass reseeding research project. We are now closer to knowing if and how volunteers can restore eelgrass beds. Volunteers resurveyed the stretch of beach for creosote logs for the Department of Natural Resources (so that they could assess which removal methods would work best – they have elected to use a helicopter for removal in the sensitive marsh area at Cherry Point). The Department of Natural Resources can now remove this toxic material from the beach.

One volunteer has initiated a program to continue marine water quality sampling in the Chuckanut Bay area. This sampling was discontinued by the Department of Health before the source of the fecal coliform pollution has been discovered. This Beach Watcher will be utilizing the Post Point labs to process the samples with the help of an intern and possibly additional Beach Watchers. We will know more about the distribution of fecal coliform pollution in Chuckanut Bay due to his efforts, and hopefully we will be able to discover the source.

Art by Bob Ryerson,
aka Bob the Barrel Painter
But wait there's more
Public Education


Volunteers also initiated two public education events presenting information about marine plastics, and orca bioacoustics to the public. Participants were interested in both topics and asked many questions at both events. It is our hope that participants appreciate and value orcas more because of what they heard, and that the participants will adopt some of the plastic waste reduction strategies we suggested because of what they learned. Participant’s questions suggested that they thought the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was a bad thing and that people should stop generating plastic waste.

In addition to these projects outlined above and detailed in the pages that follow, volunteers have contributed to the following efforts in 2009:

drum-roll, please . . .

Beach Naturalists
Beach Clean-up gulf road
Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management Plan
Blaine Parks Board
Boulevard Park Eelgrass surveillance
Boulveard Park Anchor out project
Cherry Point Working Group
Clam surveys with the MRC
Futurewise Whatcom - Board Member
Habitat Survey – Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association
Invasive Species Monitoring
Journal Workshop for Student Activist Changing Society (workshop creator)
Lummi Island Ferry Landing Restoration
Marine Mammal Stranding Network- education director, fund raising, volunteer coordinator, web-master
Marine Resources Committee – members
Mercury study with the Department of Health
Mercury contamination in Bellingham Bay – helping RE-Sources understand the issue and the unknowns.
Natural Resources Marketplace – working to create for Whatcom County
Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Committee – education committee
One Square Inch of Silence – wrote application for non-profit status
People for Lake Whatcom
Public Advocacy at City & County Council meetings
Salmon Spawner Surveys
Shoreline Master Plan Updates testimony
Spartina Survey with People for Puget Sound
Squalicum Park Clean-Up review with RE-Sources
Water quality testing for the MRC
Water quality testing at Ten Mile Creek
Watershed Reconveyance

See what I mean? What an amazing list of contributions you have all made. And my laundry list here doesn't even begin to do justice to the depth and quality of work so many of you have contributed.

Go Team!


video


Watershed Master/Beach Watchers Survey

As you know, I also asked all of you to help me out by giving some more information about your experiences overall. Thank you, everyone, for taking the time out to provide this very valuable information to us! Thirty-one volunteers completed the survey.

Make sure you take a look at the “Wordle” at the top of this blog. The wordle captures all of your comments about the program. The larger the word, the more often it appeared in your comments. You'll notice that the words Great, Community, and People figure very prominently. You've summed it up! This is exactly how I feel about my experiences, too.

Here’s what else you said:

63% of you reported that you volunteered a lot more in your community since joining the Watershed Master / Beach Watchers and 17% reported volunteering a little more since joining.

61% of you reported volunteering a lot more for the environment since joining and 23% reported volunteering a little more since joining.

36% of you became a lot more involved in local decision making and community leadership
since joining and 23% became a little more involved in decision making and community leadership.

73% answered yes to the question “Do you feel more comfortable voicing your opinions or concerns at public meetings because of your Watershed Master / Beach Watchers experiences?”

71% reported making personal changes to your lifestyle because of their training or volunteer experiences.

You'll remember that I also asked you what you enjoyed doing the most.

66% of you enjoyed collecting data the most through activities such as beach monitoring, creosote surveys, water quality sampling, clam surveys, etc.

59% of you said your favorite was stewardship activities such as community leadership, beach clean-ups, plant sales, and oyster seeding.

45% of you liked teaching youth and/or adults about natural resource issues the most, and 35% of you liked promoting and organizing educational events best.

When you add those numbers you can see that some of you had at least two favorites!

Thank you everyone who helping me with my annual report and my online survey. It was great to talk with so many of you in person! Thank you for all that you've done for our community.


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