Rangers and staff of Whidbey’s seven state parks pose with the founding members of Friends of Whidbey State Park. In the front row kneelinng is park naturalist Janet Hall (left) and lead Friends organizer Margie Parker. Photo provided

Rangers and staff of Whidbey’s seven state parks pose with the founding members of Friends of Whidbey State Park. In the front row kneelinng is park naturalist Janet Hall (left) and lead Friends organizer Margie Parker. Photo provided

“Friends” joining Whidbey’s state parks

Volunteers to patch up public’s playgrounds

Washington State Parks have a friend in Margie Parker.

The Coupeville resident spearheaded a year-long effort to form a new liaison with the state agency called Friends of Whidbey State Parks.

Its aim is to fill staffing and maintenance holes at Whidbey’s seven parks created by years of state budget cuts. Volunteers are being sought for training to oversee projects that will be identified and assigned by park employees.

“All of the state parks south of Deception Pass need a lot of help,” said Parker, a 40-year resident of Whidbey. “We’ve been working to create a partnership. We want to have team leaders for each of the parks oversee projects such as work on a trail, clean up a beach, help in the office or remove invasive species.”

The seven parks or park sites are: Joseph Whidbey, Fort Ebey, Ebey’s Landing, Fort Casey, Keystone Spit, South Whidbey and Possession Point.

Several meetings are planned on South and North Whidbey to explain the new park partnership.

Since the 2008 recession, state-run parks across the Evergreen State have experienced major cuts in personnel and operational budgets as the Legislature continually decreased the parks’ share of state general funds.

Once supported by some $90 million in state funds, parks must now generate a majority of their own operating budgets.

In 2011, the state created the Discover Pass to offset the budget reductions.

Costing $30 annually or $10 daily to access 100 developed parks and dozens of other wilderness sites, it’s still not enough to keep up appearances at the recreational sites.

“Our staffing has been cut quite a bit since pre-2012,” said Jon Crimmins, area manager of the seven parks that are known as Central Whidbey Parks. “We can get the basics done but not all the trail and campsite clean-up. We’ve got a bit of a maintenance backlog.”

A Friends partnership will definitely help, especially during the spring and summer busy season, Crimmins said.

The Friends of Whidbey State Parks group joins 27 other similar groups and foundations in Washington that provide support and advocacy. Deception Pass State Park has enjoyed a robust Friends group for years.

Several years ago, a South Whidbey Friends park group formed to oppose a state proposal to privatize local parks in order to keep them open.

“That group came together and lasted a few years and then faded,” Parker said. “They clearly said ‘no’ to the state parks becoming privatized and letting concessionaires come in.”

Getting a Whidbey Friends park group officially formed took much longer than expected, Parker said. While it has social media sites, by-laws and a board of directors, its nonprofit status still needs to be approved.

But the unpaid labor of love is worth it to Parker, a retired pediatric nurse.

“I just love all the parks on Whidbey and all they have to offer,” she said.

“I think the Friends group is a huge opportunity for people to get to know their neighbors and become an advocate for their local park.”

Public meetings to discuss Friends of Whidbey State Parks’ purpose, progress and volunteer opportunities are scheduled: 7-8 p.m. Feb. 6, Coupeville Library; 7-8 p.m. Feb. 8, Freeland Library; 7-8 p.m. Feb. 15 at Oak Harbor Library.

For more information, www. friendsofwhidbeystateparks.org

This is the new logo created for the new volunteer group that will assist rangers at Whidbey’s seven state parks with maintenance and other duties.

This is the new logo created for the new volunteer group that will assist rangers at Whidbey’s seven state parks with maintenance and other duties.

More in Life

At the scene of the murder of merlin Mariner at Whale Bell Park, Officer Polly Graph and Ashford Gris break up a fight between the murdered man’s fiancé Goldie Digger and his estranged wife Rainy Gray. Detective I.B. Fuzz and Coroner Gus Gruesome, right, are shocked. Photo by Kramer O’Keefe.
It’s a “Whale of a Tale” in Langley Feb. 24-25

By BETTY FREEMAN For Whidbey News Group For 34 years, Langley has… Continue reading

Ladies! Be smart. Watch out for your heart

Local cardiac screening saves lives

National fiddlin’ champions perform in Freeland Sunday

Bee Eaters to buzz Dancing Fish Vineyards

Living the motto ‘neighbors helping neighbors’

Volunteers can still sign up for Hearts & Hammers

Rockin’ A Hard Place: Remembering a whole lot about a land that time forgot

It’s always good to hear visitors marvel at our beautiful sights here… Continue reading

Whidbey Playhouse has a winner with “The Producers”

Cast, costumes, set, singing all stand out

Athlete, honor student named Rotary student of the month

The Rotary Club of Oak Harbor chose Weston Whitehead as its Student… Continue reading

New play, new roles for The Bard’s women

‘Fan fiction for Shakespeare nerds’

Seminar targets firearms safety

A safer community is the goal of a new free firearms seminar… Continue reading

On a mission to help hoarders

Downsizing, clearing clutter also part of Oak Harbor business

Rockin’ A Hard Place: Happy trails to you, until we meet in Coupeville

Over Christmas and New Year’s, some friends sat around our house sharing… Continue reading

Balancing life with a ‘Great Dane cane’

Big service dog makes big difference for Oak Harbor woman