Island rock hunt celebrates Oak Harbor ‘Year of the Oak’

Whidbey Island Rocks is encouraging people to paint stones with Garry oaks before a hunt Saturday.

Members of the public and Whidbey Island Rocks are encouraged to paint and hide stones with Garry oak designs or other local flora and fauna this week in preparation for a hunt Saturday. Photo by Jane Geddes

Members of the public and Whidbey Island Rocks are encouraged to paint and hide stones with Garry oak designs or other local flora and fauna this week in preparation for a hunt Saturday. Photo by Jane Geddes

The group known as “Whidbey Island Rocks” is encouraging artists and arborists alike to paint and hide rocks featuring Garry oak designs to celebrate Oak Harbor’s namesake tree this week.

It has been 170 years since Oak Harbor was named by Dr. Richard Lansdale after he saw the gnarly trunks lining the harbor in 1851. The city was previously known as Klatolletsche by the Native Americans living on Whidbey.

Whidbey Island Rocks has more than 27,000 members in its Facebook group. Jane Geddes, a group administrator, said Laura Renninger, the president of the Oak Harbor Garry Oak Society, approached her with the idea to get the community involved in celebrating “Year of the Oak.”

“We’re really trying to promote the Garry oaks and the heritage of the city, and the work the Society’s been doing to save them,” Geddes said.

The group does a few rock hunts a year to keep members engaged. Saturday’s hunt is a way to do that and to get people to engage with local history, Geddes said.

Besides Garry oaks, Geddes said people have painted stones with local flora and fauna as well as designs symbolic of the city’s history.

The rocks will be hidden in public spaces close to Garry oaks. People will not need to go traipsing through private property or stores, but a stone may be hidden on the edge of a yard if there is a big Garry oak nearby, Geddes said.

Rock hunters can check the Whidbey Island Rocks Facebook group or its event listing on social media Saturday morning for clues on where to find a painted stone.

Geddes asked that people share photos of their discovery online. She said she hopes the group will hide about 80 stones and that other members of the public will get involved.

“It’s fun,” she said. “We get to share some of our local history with people.”

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