Jeanie McElwain holds the new edition of “Getting to the Water’s Edge,” a book that includes information about beach accessibility, fishing spots, natural history, species identification and more, including all of the sea creatures that can be found at Double Bluff in South Whidbey. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Jeanie McElwain holds the new edition of “Getting to the Water’s Edge,” a book that includes information about beach accessibility, fishing spots, natural history, species identification and more, including all of the sea creatures that can be found at Double Bluff in South Whidbey. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Group’s book will lead you to the water’s edge

It may seem like getting to the water’s edge would be simple, given that Whidbey Island is surrounded by water, but there can be some challenges that a little local know-how can help solve.

That’s where the Sound Water Stewards book, “Getting to the Water’s Edge,” steps in.

The third edition of the book was released this summer. Older versions of the book have been sold out for years and were out of date, which is why the group wanted to do a revamped edition. The most recent version of the book came out in 2006.

More than 50 volunteers worked together to document sites, write, design, edit and print the new book. They raised $33,000 from local sponsors and individuals to cover the cost of printing.

Linda Ridder is the nonprofit’s president and said a new edition of the book has been one of her goals for years.

“There were some new beaches that weren’t in it at all, and it was pretty silent on things like climate change,” Ridder said. “Our goal was to expand it.”

The new edition is longer and includes more sites, site accessibility information, dog-friendly parks, clam digging tips, sea creature identification and more, but it leaves out trail maps since they can easily be found elsewhere.

“We tried to make it a very practical book. It’s really a field guide to our marine resources,” Ridder said.

The guide visits most, but not all, public beaches on the island.

“Some sites you can get to the water but you can’t really walk on the beach to the right or the left without trespassing on people’s property,” Ridder explained. “We only included beaches where at least two cars can park without obstructing driveways and you can actually get to the beach and move in one direction or the other.”

Sarah Schmidt was the project manager for the 2006 edition and helped with the book’s production this time around. She said her institutional knowledge of the county’s beaches and trails helped her during the process of editing and compiling information from the crew of volunteers.

“It’s packed full of interesting and worthwhile information for anyone who lives here,” Schmidt said. She highlighted the book’s section on beach access for people with mobility issues as something new in the third edition.

Jeanie McElwain did a little bit of everything in the book’s production and said she is most proud of the information on site accessibility.

“It’s an issue partly because we’re an older community. As we grow older, we ourselves will have challenges, so this is for everyone,” McElwain said. “We emphasize everyone’s accessibility challenges are different, and focus on self-responsibility and giving the people the information to make their own decisions about what they can do and where they can go.”

McElwain suggested people try visiting beaches in the winter if they have accessibility concerns. The book explains that some of the “best daytime high tides are in the winter.” Some beaches have parking spots that are close to the water’s edge, so people with mobility concerns can simply drive up and enjoy the view.

“Open your windows, smell, listen, feel the breeze and have a tremendous experience any time of the year,” she said.

McElwain said she thought the book came at just the right time because the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the nonprofit’s fundraising events. Since the book was entirely covered by the fundraising efforts, the proceeds can cover the group’s expenses.

“It comes just at the right time to keep us going through the next few years, hopefully,” she said, adding that the current social distancing measures make the book even more valuable.

“In some ways this is an ideal book to buy during the time of COVID,” McElwain said. “Beaches are places where we can safely socially distance and still have a fabulous time with others, and the Northwest’s beaches are a great place to go year round.”

Copies of the third edition of “Getting to the Water’s Edge” are available for $20 at local bookstores and online at soundwaterstewards.org

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