ShellFest coming to Birch Bay State Park

Published on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 by Steve Guntli

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As the No. 1 hard shell clamming site in all of Washington, Birch Bay State Park is a natural choice to host ShellFest. This year’s ShellFest on Saturday, July 12, will allow locals to get a hands-on lesson on shellfish and harvesting, with low-tide walks led by local experts, as well as a delicious meal featuring local seafood.

The event is part of former governor Christine Gregoire’s Washington Shellfish Initiative, aimed at restoring shellfish beds along the inland seas of Washington.

According to surveys carried out by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Birch Bay has been the most productive hard shell clamming site in Washington for the last several years. Along with seeded oyster beds, diggers can find native littleneck clams, Manila clams, butter clams, cockles and horse clams. The beach is open all year, except when algae blooms and unsafe levels of biotoxins force officials to close the beach.

“We have great low tides and great beaches for clamming,” said Ted Morris, manager and ranger at Birch Bay State Park. “Unfortunately, our beaches are sometimes closed because we can’t keep our algae blooms in check.”

(Ed. Note: Currently, there is a shellfish biotoxin closure in effect from Birch Bay to the Canadian border.)

One of the goals of ShellFest is to let people know how they can help prevent future beach closures. Personnel from Birch Bay Water Sewer District, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and others will teach how pollution, stormwater runoff and sewer management affect the health and cleanliness of Birch Bay and other waterways, as well as ways for locals to be part of the solution.

Along with educational booths and guided walks, there will be ice tables with shellfish displays and hands-on activities for children. Taylor Shellfish and Friends of Birch Bay State Park will serve a lunch of sautéed clams and chowder from noon to 2 p.m. Lunch is free with a suggested donation of $5.

“It should be a fun day, and the weather is usually great this time of year,” Morris said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 12 at Birch Bay State Park, 5105 Helweg Road, in front of the BP Heron Center. A Washington State Discover Pass is required for vehicle parking near the event.