Beach naturalists walking local shores next weekend

Published on Thu, Jul 31, 2003 by R. Schwarz Kopf

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Beach naturalists walking local shores next weekend

By R. Schwarz Kopf

Gerald Larson has been walking the shores of Birch Bay for three years now, meeting beach-goers and sharing all kinds of information.

As part of the beach naturalist program, put on by the Bellingham-based environmental group RE Sources, Larson and other local residents are trained to share natural and cultural information with the public. The identification of beach organisms, shellfish harvesting, and low-impact beach-exploration are just some of the things naturalists explain.

“We train individuals in the summer time to staff key beaches. There are about 25 volunteers involved,” said Crina Hoyer, coordinator for the beach naturalist program. “They’re out there to make sure the beach is treated with a gentle hand, but the main goal is about educating the public to treat the beach with gentleness.”

The naturalists, who participate in one full day of training with a marine biologist, are locally staffing Birch Bay state park and Semiahmoo spit during the summer months. Hoyer said the naturalists essentially provide the same service a park ranger would, but noted because of budget cuts in the state, park rangers are no longer found at local beaches.

“The volunteers are interacting with and educating as many people as they can, and are literally walking around the beach,” she said.

Currently, there are between one and four naturalists per location and can be identified by their hats and name tags, as well as the white buckets and field guides they clutch in their hands.

“I never had a negative response from the public,” said Larson, a Birch Bay volunteer. “It (volunteering) sounded like something worthwhile doing.”

During his first year walking the shores, Larson said he would wait for people to approach him, but that’s changed. “The best approach is to go out on the tide flats and start talking. Some of the old-timers already know most things, but they all have stories to share,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there.”

The naturalists will only be walking the beaches one more weekend this season during Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, August 9. “That is the last weekend the naturalists will be out this summer,” Hoyer said. “During the fall, winter and spring the volunteers are still with us, but the summer is the busiest.”

RE Sources began in 1982 and has since become one of the region’s most respected environmental education organizations. In addition to the naturalist program, RE Sources is also involved in waste reduction, watersheds and school activities.

For more information, visit www.re-sources.org or call 733-8307..