New group to advocate for, support Central Whidbey State Parks

About an hour into the meeting, it was time to get down to business.

Margie Parker talks about how a new state parks friends group is coming together Tuesday night at the Coupeville Library.

About an hour into the meeting, it was time to get down to business.

Steve Kobylk stood in front of a whiteboard, a marker in hand, and began proposing the basic structure on how to get things started.

“The next 60 days?” he asked. “What do we want?”

In a matter of minutes, lists were created, responsibilities assigned and the Friends of Central Whidbey State Parks group was off and running. At a meeting attended by about 20 people Tuesday night at the Coupeville Library, it was announced that the new friends group was forging ahead and the process of taking the first baby steps began. The group will provide advocacy and support for seven state parks on Whidbey Island that fall under the Central Whidbey State Parks management area.

That area consists of Fort Casey, Fort Ebey, Keystone Spit, Ebey’s Landing, South Whidbey, Joseph Whidbey and Possession Point state parks. Friends of South Whidbey State Park, which was established four years ago, will remain intact and focus efforts on the park for which its name is derived. Deception Pass and Dugualla state parks on North Whidbey are managed separately and are supported by the Deception Pass Park Foundation.

The Friends of Central Whidbey State Parks is intended to be an umbrella group over the seven parks to coordinate volunteer efforts and raise money to help with projects. It will pursue nonprofit status so it can be the fundraising arm for several active volunteer groups that are already well established in the parks.

“The point of this group is to use what’s already there,” said Jon Crimmins, the Central Whidbey State Parks area manager.

“We have great groups. What they don’t have is the ability to network or the ability to get donations. That’s the point of this umbrella group.”

Crimmins was hired as the first Central Whidbey State Parks area manager in 2012 after the state agency cut staffing at individual parks and consolidated resources for managers to handle greater areas of responsibility. Crimmins and his staff manage an area that stretches from Oak Harbor to Clinton that was run by three onsite park rangers and their staffs five years ago. Crimmins’ staff is based at Fort Casey.

A small group of park supporters have met with Crimmins in recent months to work toward getting a centralized, all-encompassing friends group off the ground to help his staff that is stretched thin. Margie Parker of Coupeville and Barb Adams of Oak Harbor have been two of the driving forces and at least initially will be tackling some of the organizational tasks and begin the process toward acquiring nonprofit status.

The group is looking for board members and will continue to work toward building what it hopes will be a large network of volunteers to help with projects, event staffing, and even park maintenance. Volunteers can help as much or as little as they want. Assignments range from greeting visitors at their favorite park, leading visitors on guided tours, mowing a lawn or building a bench.

A long list of needs also includes help from those skilled in grant writing, bookkeeping and building a website and social media page.

“We don’t want to inundate people,” Parker said, who emphasized the group wants to have fun.

Parker, a retired pediatric nurse, created a detailed agenda that summarized the group’s mission and provided current projects where people can help. A few people volunteered to be focal points for certain areas of responsibility in a communication chain that will spread word through email about projects in which people can help.

Kobylk, who gives guided tours with the Fort Casey Volunteer Battalion, suggested the group operate from two lists of immediate and ongoing projects. He said the current task list would get reset and updated every 60 days.

Building park benches was placed on the current list of projects, as was assembling the group’s organizational team and starting to tackle publicity and outreach.

For starters, people were assigned as main contacts for projects related to community beach litter cleanups, the Admiralty Head Lighthouse, trail maintenance, groundskeeping and fort restoration, preservation and tours.

Those interested in helping with ongoing volunteer support were given a volunteer application and a form showing their areas of interest. Those who help just once aren’t required to fill out the volunteer application.

A question was raised about the group’s name, since some of the parks aren’t located in the central part of the island. Parker said the group is open to ideas should someone have a better name in mind, however the current name is the designation given by Washington State Parks.

There is no such thing as a bad idea, Parker said.

“We really are just getting started,” Parker told the group. “You are on the ground floor here.”

The Friends of South Whidbey State Park has expressed support for the new friends group, Parker said. And in turn, the Friends of Central Whidbey State Parks will support that group. She pointed out that the South Whidbey group will hold a music festival July 23 and needs 30 volunteers to help staff the event.

Anyone interested in joining or inquiring about the Friends of Central Whidbey State Parks may do so by calling 360-678-4519.


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