Whidbey Island residents can learn how to be park friendly on Jan. 12.
Meetings scheduled in Clinton and Freeland will address how people can help volunteer at Possession Point and South Whidbey state parks.
Adopting a trail, beach or shelter “so volunteers kind of become the eyes and ears for the park,” is one option, said Margie Parker, president of Friends of Whidbey State Parks.
Local residents who use the parks are also encouraged to attend the meetings to give their perspectives and discuss what they’d like to see a park team accomplish, Parker added. Whidbey’s seven state parks or sites are Joseph Whidbey, Fort Ebey, Ebey’s Landing, Fort Casey, Keystone Spit, South Whidbey and Possession Point.
“All of them need help, and they all need different help,” said Parker, who’s lived on Whidbey more than 40 years.
Friends of Whidbey State Parks joins more than two dozen similar “friends” groups and foundations that provide support and advocacy for Washington’s state park system.
Deception Pass State Park has enjoyed support from citizen groups for years.
Whidbey’s group organized many work and clean-up days during 2018 after reaching a five-yearagreement with the state park system. It also helped organized the recent first day hike attended by more than 100 people at two local parks.
Teams for Possession Point State Park and South Whidbey State Park are being formed; other teams for other Whidbey parks will be added in the future. Help is needed because Washington State Parks has continually had to cut jobs and operating budgets over the past decade as its share of state general funds dwindled.
“Our volunteers are invaluable to state parks,” said Toni Weyman Droscher, spokesperson with Washington State Parks. “And we are grateful for the help and energy they — and friends groups — bring to parks. (But) there’s a clear line between what volunteers can do and what paid staff can do.”
For example, volunteers can help remove small branches from trails after a windstorm, but only paid staff can rev up a chainsaw to get rid of fallen trees.
Friends groups meet with local park rangers and maintenance staff on a regular basis.
“They are happy to get the help but we do need to coordinate with them and make sure everyone is safe,” Parker said.
In 2011, the state created the Discover Pass to help offset budget reductions. It costs $30 annually or $10 daily to access 100 developed parks and dozens of other wilderness sites.But it’s still not enough to keep up appearances.
Currently, some national parks are drowning in garbage and overflowing toilets because of the federal government shutdown. While most National Park Service sites remain open, there is no staff to maintain them. Park partners and foundations, similar to friends group, are filling the void.
Friends of Whidbey State Parks meetings are as follows:
l For Possession Point State Park, 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12 at WIcoWorks, 8898 Highway 20, Clinton.
l For South Whidbey State Park, 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12 at Freeland Library, 5495 S. Harbor Ave.
l Two clean-up and repair days are scheduled at South Whidbey State Park on Jan. 18 and Jan. 19, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.