Whidbey's Beach Watchers gearing up for Sound Waters

2013 Sound Waters participants make their way through registration. This year 65 classes will be offered for attendees to choose from.   - Courtesy photo
2013 Sound Waters participants make their way through registration. This year 65 classes will be offered for attendees to choose from.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

For anyone wanting to learn more about Puget Sound, Beach Watchers is holding a one-day university with 65 classes Feb. 1.

Sound Waters, now in its 19th year, was started after the first Beach Watchers organization was formed. The program is a Washington State University Extension service which brings volunteers together to educate the public about Puget Sound.

“I’m trying to do my bit to save the planet,” said Julie Ward, publicity chairwoman for Sound Waters.

About 550 to 600 people attend the event, said co-chairwoman Linda Ade Ridder.

Many people who are a part of Beach Watchers want to preserve what the area has, but also they want to do more than write a check, Ward said.

“There’s a lot of passion,” Ward said. “Sound Waters is put on by volunteers.”

Twenty volunteers make-up the core of the Sound Waters committee.

All of the volunteers are part of Beach Watchers, so they’ve completed 100 hours of program training, Ade Ridder said.

“It’s a great group to work with,” Ade Ridder said. “It makes being chair pretty easy.”

This year’s keynote speaker is William Steele, a 20-year veteran of the University of Washington Seismology Lab.

Steele will talk about the Cascadia Fault Zone, earthquake hazards and efforts to build an effective early warning system.

“If there was a 9.0 earthquake off the coast, even here in the sound we would feel effects,” Ade Ridder said.

Steele’s keynote speech will commence the one-day university. Attendees can focus on any area they want, Ward said.

Classes range from basic fishing techniques, native culture and traditions to ocean acidification.

There will be three sessions for class: a morning, early afternoon and mid-afternoon session.

About half of the classes are new this year. Sue Salveson, program chairwoman, was in charge of locating speakers for the class.

To find new class topics, Salveson said she read through the news to find issues that affect the local marine environment. She then contacted the spokespersons of the organizations to speak at the event.

Experts have also approached her about participating, and she’s received referrals.

“It’s mostly just people who have a great story to tell and are willing to give up a Saturday and speak to the public,” Salveson said.

Salveson joined Beach Watchers in 2012, so she’s a “newbie” compared to other volunteers.

“I really am excited about learning and giving the opportunity for other people to learn about our environment,” Salveson said. “It’s energizing. We want to keep getting information out there for people who want to learn about it.”

Because of all the new classes, there’s a lot of information people haven’t heard before, Salveson said.

Some of the new classes include Bald Eagle ecology, snails, slugs and things in our gardens to landslide hazards — which is extremely relevant after the large slide  at Ledgewood last year, Salveson said.

“We run the gamut of technical scientific information and some of the more interesting information about the snails and slugs around us,” Salveson said.

The exhibits hall will be open all day long, Ade Ridder said. Puget Sound Energy and the American Red Cross will have booths set-up. People will be able to check out emergency kits and learn how to make a plan for their family during an earthquake.

“The goal is to help people better understand the place where we live, and how we can be better stewards,” Ade Ridder said.

Beach Watchers’ mission is to educate the public, Ade Ridder said.

The Sound Waters event is a large fundraiser for Beach Watchers because many of the funds that were available to them in the past are no longer there. Money raised will go to support the coordinator and keep programs going.

Online registration opened Jan. 4 and continues through Jan. 25. Online registration takes priority, Ward said. People can try to register the day of, but they’ll have to take their chances on what classes are left.

Class sizes range between 20-to-30 people. Everyone is able to attend the keynote speaker, Ward said.

The first time Ward attended the event in 2011, the main topic was titled “Puget Sound: What’s In Our Water and Why Does It Matter?,” which was also known as “cinnamon and spice and things not so nice.”

“Everything we eat ends up out there,” Ward said. “Everything you do on land effects the water.”

Because of the popularity of the topic, it will be one of the returning classes this year.

“It’s neat to be around 500 people who care about our waters,” Ward said.

“It’s a buzz to have people who want to do something.”


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