Opinion

Beach Watchers' training begins March 25 | Beach Watchers Journal

By DENNIS LINDEN

At this time of year, as seasonal rains quench these thirsty islands, our drives and dirt roads look more like a satellite view of the Minnesota lake country and rubber boots are strategically positioned on every porch just to retrieve the mail.

It is an indoor time of simmer cooking, planning for the next garden, early dinner hours and reading a good book to the sound of winter on the roof. So, as you put another log on the fire during this time of quiet contemplation, consider making a spring resolution that will teach you all about the natural workings of this special place we all call home, rain or shine, as well as enable you to contribute to this archipelago’s environmental well-being.

WSU Beach Watcher’s Training starts on March 25.

Ever since I took the first Beach Watchers training offered here in 2006, I see this annual bounty of precipitation much differently. These waters fill our wells and reservoirs, nourish the region’s embryonic daffodil bulbs and deliver a vital food source of small land critters into shoreline eel grass beds, which have served as an international nursery for the salmon fry of the entire Salish Sea for eons.

However, Beach Watchers also taught me the irony in the phrase "waste management." For the last 150 years or so, this watershed has carried off the wastes of our eat-now-pay-later civilization into the waters and sea life that surround these islands. The waters flush everything downstream, from the soil “additives” of island farms and lawns to the soaps we use to clean ourselves and our things.

Every winter, Ma Nature hoses off all the layers of last summer’s petroleum products from our nonporous roads and driveways, which ribbon right through island ecosystems with a godly sense of right of way. This toxic run-off erodes and contaminates as it flows unchecked into our ponds, lakes and shoreline habitants.

So did all this environmental education on how things are supposed to work leave me with a doomed outlook on the state of the planet and this archipelago? On the contrary, understanding is the first step in practicing good marine stewardship and the Beach Watcher program insists that each participant spend as many training hours (100) in being a part the solution as a prerequisite to acceptance into the class.

Personally, this obligation has been both empowering and inspiring. This is a class that truly keeps on giving to its students and the community it serves long after graduation.

In the next two Beach Watcher Journals, I will focus in on some of these exciting “solutions” that life-after-training can involve. For now, while the fire is cozy and the slower pace of winter allows, just consider the opportunity by exploring the Beach Watchers' Web site, www.beachwatchers.wsu.edu/sanjuan

— This column is a periodic feature written by volunteers of WSU Beach Watchers San Juan County. Beach Watchers service the islands through education, research and stewardship.

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