Program Specialist Sharon Young-Hale and Interpretative Specialist Jackie French, with Washington State Parks, stand in the field at Fort Casey where Yachts of Fun will take place Saturday. State Parks is hosting the large, free water- and boat-safety event as well as several other programs throughout the summer. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Program Specialist Sharon Young-Hale and Interpretative Specialist Jackie French, with Washington State Parks, stand in the field at Fort Casey where Yachts of Fun will take place Saturday. State Parks is hosting the large, free water- and boat-safety event as well as several other programs throughout the summer. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

State Parks to host new events, programs throughout summer

Those hoping to get outside this summer but are looking for new ways to do so, need not look far.

Local State Parks staff members are ensuring Whidbey Island residents and visitors of any age have something to do every Saturday until Labor Day.

“We want to increase education in the parks,” said Sharon Young-Hale, Central Whidbey Area State Parks program specialist.

This year, Fort Casey will host its first-ever Yachts of Fun family-friendly boating and water safety event at 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday June 8 on the lawn in front of the fort. This is a discover pass free day, so parking at the park will be free.

Although there won’t be much real water involved, children and adults can enjoy free games and demonstrations that teach participants about water rescue, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, knot tying, tides and currents and more. Water- and boat-related organizations as well as the Island County Sheriff’s Office will lead the activities.

Participants will receive a passport and get a stamp after completing each task, and a prize is awarded to people who fill their passport.

Given the fact Whidbey is an island, Young-Hale said she thought it’s a worthy endeavor to teach children about water safety. She also thought it’s a good way to educate parents vicariously through their kids.

“I just thought this would be a really good way to reach the public,” she said.

State Parks Interpretive Specialist Jackie French also had new ideas for entertaining and educating young islanders this summer. She designed the area’s first Junior Ranger series, which has seven remaining sessions.

French said she’d noticed several returning children at other Junior Ranger programs, which inspired her to create a more connected series focusing on a common theme.

Young people who complete five or more of the programs will receive a prize.

The summer’s topic is Whidbey’s food web, “from four forests to the Salish Sea.” Children ages 4 and up will have opportunities to learn about salmon, orcas, forest dwelling animals, plankton and more during the free series, she said. Registration isn’t required.

Each program will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. on a Saturday; the next one will be held June 15 at Fort Ebey State Park. The rest of the series will be June 29 at Fort Casey, July 6 at Fort Ebey, July 13 at Fort Ebey, July 27 at Fort Casey, Aug. 24 at Joseph Whidbey and Aug. 31 at Fort Ebey.

French will also be hosting events throughout the island for older outdoor enthusiasts as well. At 10 a.m. on various Saturdays throughout the summer, she’ll take groups on moderate hikes through five different state parks. The next hike is June 22 at Fort Ebey.

Groups will be limited to 15 people and reservation is required. The remaining hikes will take place July 20, July 27, Aug. 10 and Aug. 17.

The idea is to show people some of the lesser known and less traveled trails in Central Whidbey parks. The guided hike participants can also challenge themselves to fill a passport with stamps from each park.

“There’s so much about Whidbey Island that should be appreciated,” French said. “I just want to show it off.”

• To learn more about Yachts of Fun, contact Sharon Young-Hale at 360-678-1186 or sharon.young-hale@parks.wa.gov. To register for a guided hike or find out more about the Junior Ranger program, contact Jackie French at 360-678-1186 or at jackie.french@parks.wa.gov

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