Coupeville's Sammye Kempbell wins Holmes award | KUDOS

Sammye Kempbell of Coupeville is the 2012 Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year.

Kempbell received the award before a packed house of more than 450 attendees Feb. 4, during opening ceremonies of the one-day Sound Waters University at South Whidbey High School. The event is organized by WSU Island County Beach Watchers.

The coastal volunteer award is presented annually to one individual in Island County.

The award is co-sponsored by the Island County Marine Resources Committee and Washington State University Extension to encourage and recognize the achievement of volunteers working to protect and restore the marine waters and coastal resources of Island County. Nominations are open to anyone, regardless of organization or affiliation.

Beach Watchers coordinator Barbara Bennett said Kempbell is passionate about marine stewardship and local, Native American history, and is a talented educator and storyteller.

She became a WSU Island County Beach Watcher in 2003, and since has logged more than 4,000 hours of volunteer time and more than 41,000 contacts with members of the public. She volunteers hundreds of hours each year to provide educational services to local school children, visitors at festivals such as the Penn Cove Water Festival and Ebey’s Forever Conference and Community Event, and to tourists at the Coupeville Wharf.

“She is a gentle, engaging and inspiring teacher who is a champion for the coastal resources of Island County,” Bennett said.

Bennett noted particularly Kempbell’s work to restore and interpret the Rosario tide pools of Deception Pass State Park.

“The shallow pools that remain during low tides are reservoirs for sea life rarely available for viewing. This fragile life is exposed to thousands of visitors every year and could easily be damaged (and has been in the past) were it not for education about the marine life and proper beach etiquette to help visitors learn and observe without doing harm.  Sammye has been the ‘beach lady’ at the tide pools for years and has gradually attracted additional volunteers to work with her.”

Kempbell demonstrated creativity in identifying marine stewardship issues, initiative in designing solutions, and leadership that inspired collaboration, recruited participation and sustained and built durable programs for the future. Through her volunteering efforts, officials said, she has impacted the marine resources of Island County and extended education about marine resources to thousands who will carry those lessons to communities locally and around the world, and communicate what they have learned to future generations.

WSU Island County Beach Watchers and Deception Pass Beach Naturalist program are accepting applications for trainings to begin in April. For details, email WSU Extension at or Deception Pass State Park at


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