Kempbell named 2011 Jan Holmes Coastal Volunteer

Coupeville resident Sammye Kempell displays the Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the year Award. - Staff photo
Coupeville resident Sammye Kempell displays the Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the year Award.
— image credit: Staff photo

Sammye Kempbell of Coupeville is the 2011 Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year.

She became a WSU Beach Watcher in 2003 and has logged more than 4,000 hours of volunteer time making 41,000 contacts with members of the public, providing beach naturalist interpretive services to school children and speaking about the shoreline at summer festivals, conferences and directly with tourists.

A tragic irony of the shoreline is how easily well-meaning people can wreak destruction unknowingly if not guided in their explorations. At Rosario Beach in Deception Pass State Park, a small pocket of rocky tidepools constitutes an extraordinary nearshore treasure. Low tides expose fragile sea life to the threat of devastating damage from thousands of visitors. On one particularly tragic day, just a single visit to this beach by busloads of school children resulted in severe damage.

Kempbell made it her mission to solve this problem by educating the beach-going public, investing thousands of hours in meeting tour groups and other visitors, welcoming them and explaining the fragility of the shoreline. In 2011, she collaborated with state park staff, the Deception Pass Park Foundation, WSU Island County Beach Watchers and Lighthouse Environmental Programs to launch a formal beach naturalist program. She recruited and trained volunteers, sought funding and organized partnerships with other organizations. The program in 2011 developed a team of 24 trained naturalists who provided interpretive services at 104 low tides at Rosario during the heavily visited summer months.

Every year, hundreds of volunteers contribute thousands of hours of service, science and outreach in support of Island County’s marine environment. They do so as members of various organizations and, in some cases, as citizens unaffiliated with any group. In 2009, the Island County Marine Resources Committee and WSU Beach Watchers partnered to establish an award to recognize this contribution of volunteer service and leadership. They created the annual Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year Award, open to any citizen of Island County regardless of affiliation.

To identify the winner, a joint committee of the MRC and WSU Beach Watchers review nominations submitted by the public. One individual is chosen and the award was presented earlier this month before an audience of some 600 people attending the annual Sound Waters University.

No one better embodied the spirit of such service in Island County than Jan Holmes, a long-time WSU Beach Watcher and early member of the MRC. Her death in December of 2011 was a great loss to members, friends and volunteers in both organizations. In recognition of her leadership, the MRC voted unanimously in January 2012 to rename the award in her honor, The Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year.


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