Letters to the Editor

Accolades shared with Beach Watchers

To all my friends, neighbors and especially my fellow Beach Watcher volunteers on Whidbey and Camano Island who voting for me in the 2010 KIRO/Cox Conserves Heroes awards program that concluded last week with me being announced as the winner of this year’s program, I’d like to extend my wholehearted thank you. Cox Conserves Heroes is an awards program created by Cox Enterprises (the owner of KIRO 7 TV in our area) and The Trust for Public Land that honors people who work to create, preserve, improve or enhance the shared outdoor places in our communities. The program takes place in multiple Cox locations across the nation.

I was flabbergasted to be nominated and even more so to actually be the winner among the four other finalists. This award really belongs to all of the Beach Watcher volunteers who give thousands of hours each year to our projects. The work I have focused on, intertidal and eelgrass monitoring and marine education, would not be possible without the people who have worked beside me from year to year and day by day during our busy summer monitoring season.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize some of those individuals and groups who are an inspiration to me, people whom I have worked most closely with during my 20 years with Beach Watchers, people who are more deserving of this award than I am.

The Beach Watcher coordinators who have led us over the years: Sarah Schmidt, Dot Irvine and Kristen Cooley, but especially Susan Berta, our first coordinator. Susan set the tone for Beach Watchers being a family. She was our mother hen who took a very personal interest in each new class member and guided her new charges in finding exciting environmental projects to immerse us in. She now oversees the Orca Network.

Don Meehan, WSU extension agent, made his Beach Watchers idea a reality. Don would check on the (BW) herd’s status, then ride off seeking new provisions and new trails. Along the way he would negotiate with friendly and not so friendly natives to make sure the herd progressed smoothly toward its destination. He doubled back often to check on the herd and rein in any strays before setting off again. Lots of saddle sores!

Susan King was part of the group that developed our monitoring program. Susan and I became the first monitoring team instructors and coordinators in the early 90s. Susan’s science background, her strong work ethic and personal integrity saw us through the completion of our monitoring protocol, our manual and our training regime. Nothing got by Susan and her red pen and her endless (necessary) comments in teeny tiny writing! She spent many summers on the beach with volunteers before retiring. She graciously corrected my spelling.

Our Beach Watchers on Camano Island. They are an incredible, fun, crazy, hard working band of other-islanders. Monitoring over there is never just a data collection exercise; it?s always a social gathering and a party

My special group of lady Beach Watcher friends (you know who you are). These are women who look after each other literally from mid-life to grave! They are especially good at celebrations, and wine is always involved.

Boat skipper Ken Urstad, and computer, data analysis, and technical wizards Gregg Ridder and Neal Clark. Our new exciting eelgrass video mapping and monitoring project would not be possible without them. My brain aches in their presence.

My good friend and playmate on the beach Mary Jo Adams who is from Iowa! I have spent more time down on all fours poking around in the sand and muck, jabbering an incoherent language with Mary Jo than I did my first four years of life. Our critter photographing adventures and many summers on the beach helping monitoring teams has resulted in Periwinkle Press Intertidal ID Guides. We became a non-profit, and every year we have been able to increase the amount of money we give to organizations from the sale of our guides. I am very proud of us for taking our passion for marine life that far. Mary Jo is rock solid, always calm in a crisis and always thinking of others. She also corrects my spelling.

Finally my husband Steve of 31 years whose first reaction is always “you’re going to do what now? You’re kidding?” Then he hunkers down and helps me with whatever needs to be done for the new project. He keeps me laughing with his practical jokes and he’s a good cook.

Ten thousand heart-felt thank-yous to all the people in Beach Watchers I am privileged to work with. Twenty years ago the organization changed the direction of my life, and you are the organization.

Jan Holmes

Whidbey Island

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