During this COVID-19 time (actually, during all times) it’s good to get outside. Fortunately, in Kitsap County we have lots of outside available.
So much to be thankful for: forests to meander in, trails to bike on, places where we can gaze at the Sound or sit and read, and beaches where we can identify shells, crabs, ducks, and seaweed, or just amble along. Here, it’s easy to get to nature, for nature is just a walk or a short drive away from anywhere in the county.
People and Organizations
Our parks and preserves didn’t happen by accident—and that’s where the thank-you to people and organizations comes in. Delving into the histories of open spaces reveals that many exist because of the work, planning, letter writing, and legislating done by engaged folks. Additionally, these parks and preserves are now maintained (trail clearing, trash pickup, invasive weed removal) by park professionals and volunteers. Here’s a tiny sampling of the people and organizations conserving Kitsap’s nature:
Gene and Sandy Bullock, Don and Judy Willott, and many others at the Kitsap Audubon Society provide the forum where knowledgeable lecturers teach us—during photo-filled presentations at the society’s monthly meetings (now virtual)—about birds and their habits and habitats.
Kitsap Audubon is about birds, but it’s also about preserving habitat and the environment. Now in their eighties, Gene and Sandy lead Christmas bird counts where they point out buffleheads, mergansers, wigeons, and kingfishers. Don and Judy have worked for years to bring bike/walk trails to Kitsap and were heavily involved in the creation of the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park. Kitsap Audubon provides scholarships to college students who are pursuing environment-related majors, and it gives kits to classrooms so that children can explore the world of birds. Kitsap Audubon also promotes—via organizational participation and money donations—habitat conservation through groups like Great Peninsula Conservancy.
Led for years by Sandra Staples-Bortner, and now by Nathan Daniel, Great Peninsula Conservancy purchases and oversees habitat, receives donated lands, and arranges conservation easements. In its twenty years, GPC has conserved over 10,000 acres of open space. Being apolitical, GPC provides a place where people of diverse interests enjoy coming together to do good by adding to Kitsap’s nature.
Attending the annual fundraising dinner (virtual in 2020) at Kiana Lodge is to get a positive fix, seeing the cross-section of people there. Over the years, thousands of people—environmentalists, business owners, tribal members, advocates for parks and trails, fish/plant/wildlife experts, volunteers, and politicians—have supported GPC. We’re nature-rich because of it.
Parks and Preserves
Parks and preserves are our wonderful heritage. Have you seen chum scooting upstream at Chico Salmon Park or seals lounging at Manchester State Park? Have you watched swallows flit among trees at twilight as you walk on the Clear Creek Trail? Have you identified shell types at Point No Point or gazed across the Hood Canal at the Olympics from Kitsap Memorial State Park or the Guillemot Cove Preserve? And how about strolling among trees and bushes at Port Gamble Forest, North Kitsap Forest, Illahee Preserve, Newberry Hill, Tahuya, Banner Forest, Coulter Creek, and other parks. Here, it’s easy to do.
We have first-rate nature education. Washington State University–Extension’s powerhouse program has been enthusiastically led by talented women—Peg Tillery, Renee Johnson, Amy Linhart, and now Amy Smalley—all ably assisted by marine biologist Jeff Adams of Washington Sea Grant. WSU–Extension sponsors Beach Naturalists, Stream Stewards, Shore Stewards, Salmon Docents, Shore Friendly, and other education/conservation programs.
We’re fortunate in Kitsap to also have many individuals who are passionate and educated about nature and who share their knowledge of trees, berries, fish, and ferns.
That’s only a few of the those that conserve our nature and teach us about it; others are Stillwaters, Islandwood, Western Washington University (through its SEA Discovery Center), Olympic College’s Dept. of Environmental Studies, Salish Magazine (an online publication by John Williams of Suquamish), Suquamish and S’Klallam Tribes, many activist groups, and more.
Finally, thank you newspapers and reporters. Without reporting, nature can’t be conserved because advocates wouldn’t know of the threats and opportunities affecting it. Reporters do the gumshoe work of interviewing city officials, legislators, science experts, and residents. Reporters seek facts, outline pro and cons of issues, and give the history of a community. Christopher Dunagan is a gem: he reported for years for the Kitsap Sun about the science and issues of the Puget Sound. His mantle at the Sun has since been taken up by Nathan Pilling, Christian Vosler, and Jessie Darland.
We in Kitsap County treasure our nature, which we learn about, conserve, and enjoy. That engagement is paying huge dividends during this COVID-19 time, for we have many places to safely explore—and much for which to be thankful.