Author Archives: Connie Clark

Freeland Shellfish Season 2017 – Open Jan 1 to May15

By Maribeth Crandell
Island County Environmental Health Specialist

Freeland County Park was closed to shellfish harvesting for nine years due to water quality concerns. However, efforts to clean up water at the site led to reopening the shellfish harvest there for six weeks in the spring of 2015 and for ten weeks in the spring of 2016. This year the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have extended the harvest season from January 1 to May 15 in 2017.

Shellfish are filter feeders so if there is pollution in the water, there will be pollution in the shellfish. In the last decade the Island County Department of Environmental Health went door to door speaking to watershed residents about their septic systems and how they can affect water quality. Most people voluntarily had their systems inspected. The County offered financial assistance for those that needed help with repair or replacement. The Conservation District held workshops on storm water runoff and with the help of volunteers, installed a rain garden at the edge of the parking lot to filter pollutants coming off the pavement. The Island County Parks Department installed four new pet waste bag dispensers in and around the park. Water quality improved but continues to be a challenge.

Freeland County Park is at the south end of Holmes Harbor, a narrow six mile long bay. In summer the wind comes from the north and blows layers of sea grasses, called wrack, up on the beach. Sometimes the wrack is two feet thick. It catches any pollution coming from the shore and holds on to it in a warm protected nursery for growing bacteria. Automotive fluids, pet waste, livestock manure and septic system leaks collect in the wrack and stay close to shore all summer impacting water quality at the park.

In late fall the wind changes direction and blows primarily from the south which gradually clears the beach of wrack. Water quality improves through the winter. So this year the State Department of Health approved an extended shellfish harvest season beginning January 1st.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife determines the harvest season based on the population of shellfish at any given site. In the past two years, volunteers have been taking a low tide count of shellfish harvesters during the harvest season at Freeland County Park. Flyovers are also used to help count shellfish harvesters. At the end of the season WDFW staff took an inventory of the number and species of shellfish at the site. They found enough abundance to extend the season to four and half months. In May the wind changes direction and the wrack starts to build up on the beach again resulting in diminishing water quality. So the season will be closed for the summer.

Water has been sampled at the park weekly through the summer by Island County Environmental Health. Signs posted by the boat launch alert the public to swimming and shellfish concerns.

A clickable map on the State Department of Health website indicates safe shellfish harvesting sites. It’s updated daily. You can check this map from your phone or computer before you reach for bucket and shovel.

Kid Friendly Marine Display at the Coupeville Wharf

There are some great new kid friendly displays at the Coupeville Wharf – highlighting how Penn Cove is a mixing bowl for marine life, and how humans have lived near Penn Cove for thousands of years.


 For lots more background and pictures, see any/all of Dan Pedersen’s blog, some of the in-progress photos, and these stories of how the marine skeletons of Rosie the Gray Whale, Salty the Sea Lion,  and Rudy the Dall’s Porpoise got to the ceiling of the display over the last dozen years.

VIEWPOINT – Jul 2016 – Tess Cooper – Whidbey ECO Net Changes With the Seasons

tessSummer is here; the days are long and the weather is amazing! It is hard not to get out and enjoy the beautiful, natural wonders that Whidbey Island has to offer us. The change in season is always my favorite part of the year. It doesn’t matter which season, the end of one chapter and the fresh beginning of a new is always exhilarating to me. The Whidbey ECO Network finds itself in the middle of a change in season as well. An old chapter is coming to an end and a new chapter is on the horizon.

Whidbey ECO Network (ECO Net) is an umbrella network made up of members from many local organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting the environment and recovering the vital functions of Puget Sound. “ECO” stands for Education, Communication, and Outreach. Through their combined efforts the members of ECO Net reach out and affect change within our local community in many ways. Through forest planning, manure management, water quality monitoring, shoreline restoration, salmon recovery, outdoor education and special events, we promote good stewardship of our land and waters.

Some of our most notable accomplishments over the past few years include the Earth Day Green Career Fair at South Whidbey High School; a Social Marketing Project with Livestock Owners in Maxwelton Valley; K-12 Educator Involvement and Alignment with Next Generation Science Standards, planning and participation in Whidbey Earth and Ocean Month; Science While Sipping/Pub Talks; as well as many training and professional development opportunities for our members in topics such as social marketing, volunteer management, project design & evaluation, and how to use social media to promote your organization.

Previously, funding and support for ECO Net was provided by the Puget Sound Partnership, a State agency that was formed to protect Puget Sound, however due to funding changes this relationship was terminated on June 30th, 2016. The good news is that the ECO Net members are dedicated to providing these services to our community and have vowed to preserve the Whidbey ECO Network organization! Yes, we will continue to work together as environmental stewards of this great Island. So keep an eye out for us! We will be working in the coming months to locate new funding sources, strengthen our mission and vision as an independent organization, and recruit new members to help sustain our efforts! We urge you to become involved – Visit our website and Calendar of Events at

Please join me, as we close the old chapter, in extending sincere gratitude to the Puget Sound Partnership for the amazing opportunities and support they provided us over the years; and, to Justin Burnett of Whidbey News Group for the chance to share our organization with the community through this monthly column.

And lastly, an enthusiastic round of applause to Susie Richards, our fearless leader and dedicated ECO Net Coordinator for the past two years! As I take over leadership of Whidbey ECO Net I look forward to all of the exciting new adventures and partnerships that will come our way. The new chapter will begin in the fall with our regularly scheduled meeting at the Pacific Rim Institute. Please feel free to contact me Tess Cooper, the next ECO Net Coordinator, with questions or for information about Whidbey ECO Net at

VIEWPOINT – Jun 2016 – Anna Toledo – Marine Resources Committee

What brought you to Whidbey Island — by Anna Toledo

As a transplant from the east coast, it’s a question I hear often from neighbors, friends, and fellow Islanders. My answer generally centers around family, a slower pace of life, and the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. But perhaps more interesting is not why I came, but why I stay.

I work with the Island County Marine Resources Committee (MRC), a group of volunteers appointed by our Island County Commissioners to protect and restore local marine resources. The Island County MRC is one of seven MRCs around Puget Sound, established in the late 90’s as part of a locally-driven solution to protect marine habitats and species.

I am inspired by the level of expertise and drive these volunteers bring to the table. Our members have a wide range of backgrounds and experience – including research, teaching, project management, science, agriculture, and business leadership – all united with a passion and purpose for protection, restoration, education, and stewardship of the marine environment that surrounds us.

The MRC serves as an advisory committee to the County Commissioners, providing sound science to inform decision-makers. We are also engaged in monitoring, restoration, and outreach projects.

One of the major projects we have been involved in is the shoreline restoration at Cornet Bay in Deception Pass State Park. In 2006, the MRC identified Cornet Bay as a priority restoration area, and initiated a multi-phase project with several partners to restore the shoreline to a natural beach condition. This has included removing creosoted bulkhead and contaminated fill, and re-grading the beach to match the natural slope. This provides enhanced habitat for nearshore species, and allows easier access to the beach for enjoyment and recreation.

Monitoring is an important part of any restoration project. The MRC monitors several aspects of the environment at Cornet Bay, and citizen scientist volunteers are at the core of our work. A group of volunteers tracks the condition of eelgrass, a vital component of marine ecosystems that serves as habitat and as a food source for many species. Another group of volunteers conducts beach seines to monitor the use of the nearshore by juvenile salmonids. Volunteers also survey the beach to check for presence of forage fish eggs. Forage fish, such as surf smelt and Pacific sand lance, are small creatures that play a big role in the marine ecosystem, as they are a food source for salmon, sea birds, and marine mammals.

Another key aspect of this restoration project is ongoing stewardship of the area. The MRC is working with Northwest Straits Foundation and Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group on planting and maintaining native plants at this restoration site.

Since moving to Whidbey, I have been struck by the importance of protecting and maintaining the natural beauty and ecological diversity of the marine environment that surrounds our unique island home, and my role as an individual to contribute to its preservation.

You can join in to enjoy this local shoreline restoration area, and help be a part of its ongoing beauty at monthly weeding parties this summer at Cornet Bay: July 26th and August 23rd from 10:00am – 1:00pm. Find out more about this environmental stewardship opportunity, and other ways to get involved with the MRC at our website: or by contacting me at or 360-678-2349.

VIEWPOINT – May 2016 – Maribeth Crandell – Island County Health

Safer Shellfish Harvesting
Maribeth Crandell

Warm weather brings out the sun bathers, sailors and clam diggers. Don’t forget the sunscreen, the life preservers and for clam diggers, call this number 1-800-562-5632. It’s the safe shellfish hotline. Or you can go online to use this clickable map to find out if the beach is safe for shellfish harvesting.

I manage the shellfish program for Island County Public Health and work closely with the State. You’ll find us sharing a booth at the Penn Cove Water Festival on May 14. We use a watershed model with little houses, roads, cars and livestock. Kids help us sprinkle colored powder on the model and then squirt water on it to illustrate that when it rains our car oil, livestock manure, leaky septic systems and fertilizers run off of our roads, yards and fields to the nearest water body. These pollutants will compromise water quality and shellfish safety. Our efforts to pick-up after our pets, inspect our septic systems, manage manure and maintain our vehicles, pays off in water quality.

If you’re interested in digging shellfish to eat make sure you harvest from a safe location. Avoid shoreline communities that have septic systems, storm water outfall pipes, waste water treatment plants and marinas.

The Washington Department of Health has people like me all over Puget Sound collecting water and shellfish samples from designated sites and sending them to a lab for testing. I used to wade out to a certain barnacle encrusted rock to collect a bag of mussels every 2 weeks. Even at low tide the water came up over my rubber boots and nipped at my shorts as I approached. It was one of my favorite work assignments. The samples were tested for biotoxins that can cause Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning, Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. All of these can make you sick, cause permanent damage or even death. You cannot cook or freeze it out of the meat.

Symptoms from these biotoxins vary. One local who’d experienced PSP told me it felt like his teeth were floating. He compared it with going to the dentist and getting a shot of novocaine. His extremities went numb. It can result in difficulty breathing and needs immediate medical attention. Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning can cause permanent short term memory loss, brain damage and even death. Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning, can be embarrassing and very inconvenient, as you can imagine. Heed any signs posted at the beach and check out this website for the latest biotoxin reports from the Department of Health so you “know before you go” .

During a hot spell Vibrio parahaemolyticus can sometimes be found, mostly in oysters. Vibrio can make you sick but it’s easily avoidable. When harvesting shellfish, go in the cool morning hours, ice them immediately and then cook them thoroughly.

Now that you have the hotline number and clickable map, you’re ready to head out for safer shellfish harvesting. If you have any questions about local shellfish call me at 360-678-7914.

As a member for the Whidbey ECO-Net, Education, Communication and Outreach Network, Island County Public Health works collaboratively with several local organizations to protect water quality on Whidbey Island. Visit our webpage to find out about events sponsored by ECO-Net organizations.

Viewpoint – Mar 2016 – Susan Prescott – South Whidbey Tilth

Tilth, cultivating healthy soil and community since 1982
Susan Prescott, president of South Whidbey Tilth Council of Trustees

PresidentPrescottbwMy cousin, owner of a cherry orchard in Cashmere, introduced us to the regional organization called Tilth. It had been created by young farmers from all over the Northwest who had been inspired by author farmer Wendell Berry’s words at the Spokane World Fair in 1974. He had addressed a growing concern that global, corporate agribusiness was showing far more concern for profit than human health.

The word tilth is an old English word for judging the quality of cultivated soil. These activists chose this name because it inspired them to look deeper, to find wisdom and insight from daily observation of the web of life that they depended on as farmers and ranchers.

My husband Michael and I organized a first meeting of our local chapter on June 19, 1982. Jerry and Rose Dobson and Sean and Myrna Twomey came, as well as Sue Ellen White, Marianne Edain, Steve Erickson, Iris and Peter Linton, Jerry Hill, Vivian Stembridge, Lance Porter, and a number of others.

South Whidbey Tilth was born. We were invited to manage a farmers’ market organized years before by some of our members, and Bill Lanning, former owner of what is now Bayview Corner, offered his land for it. A market has flourished there ever since.

As Bayview corner changed hands several times in the late 1990s, Tilth accepted a generous offer of 11 acres just down the highway on Thompson Road. From that land base we have continued to address the food crisis in America; the epidemic of chronic, food-related illnesses in our society today. The fact that more young people than ever before suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes, and statistics suggest that too many of their generation will not live as long as their parents.

Tilth members continue to teach, learn and share with the community. The weekly seasonal Farmers’ Market opens Sunday, May 1. Families and friends meet to enjoy fresh, healthful produce, quality handcrafts, and nourishing concessions for breakfast and lunch, while children play and musicians entertain. And, now we’ve become a WiFi site as well.

Tilth offers classes about soil building, gardening, seed saving, invasive weed control, mushroom identification and more. Kids in a small, nature-oriented private elementary school, Calyx, spend at least one day a week on the Tilth land exploring and working in their own on-site garden. Families and individuals lease community garden plots where they have access to water, fencing and tools. Dorcas Young of Lesedi Farm also leases a quarter acre from Tilth to grow produce and sell from a farm stand, open daily.

The land has native plants and trees to protect the watershed and provide wildlife food and habitat. This includes a Garry oak meadow and a woodland trail leading through a restored native understory of plants under a mature fir forest. Tilth maintains the roadside edges without herbicides, relying on native vegetation.

This year we welcome a capable young intern, who will be managing the market and garden plots, while learning new skills through the WSU Master Gardener Program and through programs with other interns on Whidbey.

Visit Tilth at 2812 Thompson Road or virtually on the website or leave a message at 360-321-0757.

State of the Sound

measures the health of Puget Sound in many different ways and reports to the governor and community each year on the State of the Sound.

See this year’s report at

The accompanying Report to the Community starts off with this wonderful quote from Billy Frank Jr –

I don’t believe in magic.
I believe in the sun and the stars, the water, the tides, the floods, the owls, the hawks flying, the river running, the wind talking. They’re measurements. They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same. That’s what I believe in. Those who learn to listen to the world that sustains them can hear the message brought forth by salmon.”

Community Discussions – On Care for Our Common Home

Comehands holding a green and growing earth, with rainbos stripes in the background to a series of INTER-FAITH discussions of Pope Francis’s recent encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home” – Monday afternoons 3-4:30 from Sept 28 2015 though Nov 9 2015.

See our calendar for topics, hosts, and locations for each event or download a flyer with full schedule (pdf)

Sponsored by the Greening Congregations of South Whidbey.

  • Langley United Methodist
  • St. Augustine Episcopal
  • St. Hubert Catholic
  • Trinity Lutheran
  • Unitarian Universalist
  • Unity on Whidbey
  • Whidbey Quakers – Friends

April 2015 Spotlight – The Whidbey Institute

Starting at Home – by Marnie Jones

“This much is clear to me. If I can’t change my own life in response to the greatest challenge now facing our human family, who can? And if I won’t make the effort to try, why should anyone else? So I’ve decided to start at home, and begin with myself. The question is no longer whether I must respond. The question is whether I can turn my response into an adventure.” —Kurt Hoelting, The Circumference of Home

When our neighbor Kurt Hoelting pulled out a map and drew a circle around this place, he found that a radius of 100 kilometers just took in the peaks of the wild Olympics and the snowy Cascades, brushed the southern end of the Puget Sound, and encompassed the San Juan Islands and the outlet of the Salish Sea to the north. Our campus, known as Chinook, is adjacent to Hoelting’s acreage. Like his home, ours sits in the center of this 100-kilometer circle—the heart of Cascadia and the center of the Salish Sea. Hoelting spent a year exploring this region by kayak, on foot, by bike, and on public transportation, and emerged with an even deeper understanding of his personal role in stewarding it all.

At the Whidbey Institute, we know that our tie to the land is vitally important and deeply personal. Here, at Chinook, we care for our spaces and see how they care for us. Through events like our upcoming April 19 Place-Making Day and a community  BioBlitz, planned for early August, we’re working to develop a community ecological learning group as we deepen our commitment to land-based programming.

BellWIIn the courtyard of Thomas Berry Hall is a bell with swimming salmon suspended by three ravens that reads, “Salmon are the seabright silver shuttles weaving our rain green world.”

BellWIcloseupThe Whidbey Institute lays at the headwaters of two creeks feeding the largest watershed on Whidbey Island, the Maxwelton Watershed, which drains into the salmon-bearing Maxwelton Creek. The bell signifies The Whidbey Institute’s bioregional perspective. We understand that the political, cultural, and geologic forces affecting Cascadia affect us all, and the Salish Sea physically connects our Whidbey Island home to a complex living ecosystem.

Some of our work on behalf of the planet is right here at home. On Thursdays throughout the growing season, volunteers gather at the Whidbey Institute’s Westgarden to cultivate vegetables and herbs using a variety of organic and biodynamic horticultural techniques. This working garden, part classroom and part pantry, supplies produce for the local food bank as well as for the onsite kitchen and for volunteers and staff members’ personal use. The garden is a place to learn and play for Waldorf Students, who share Chinook and attend school onsite. Chinook is also a popular destination for college students and others in pursuit of service learning opportunities. We have had a long standing service learning partnership with Edmonds Community College through their LEAF program, and now through the Center for Service Learning. These land-based projects have included ecological research, gardening, and land stewardship.

Our Westgarden Steward, Abigail Lazarowski, is also the Community Garden Leadership Training (CGLT) Co-Coordinator alongside Cary Peterson. Together, they head an inter-organizational effort to train future garden leaders, attracting talented young people from around the nation to serve on South Whidbey at the Good Cheer Food Bank, South Whidbey School District, and Whidbey Institute gardens. This program has ripples around the nation, as inspired young leaders nurture our students and then take their lessons home to regions as far away as the Atlantic coast.

In addition to garden stewardship and trainings which address ecosystem work close to home, the Whidbey Institute holds Signature Programs which leverage the energy of area change-makers to help address regional, national, and global environmental issues. The Cascadian Climate Collaborative, founded in 2013 by a leadership team which includes Kurt Hoelting, exists to help strengthen the climate movement by linking diverse groups of climate leaders, engaging with tough ethical and emotional questions, and encouraging wider participation. Strategic gatherings of climate leaders from our bioregion serve to build a more powerful and resilient climate movement:strengthening our connections by bringing climate leaders together in common conversation, deepening our commitments by addressing the difficult moral, emotional, and spiritual questions at the core of the work, and broadening our collaborations by bringing new constituencies into the movement. The public is welcome at our upcoming April 18 talk, “Getting Real about Our Climate Future“.

Like the Cascadian Climate Collaborative, Salish Sea Bioneers exists to bring change-makers together and strengthen our shared competence in addressing pressing social, moral, and ecological challenges. Bioneers is a national organization, founded 26 years ago, which seeks nature-inspired solutions to our most pressing environmental and social challenges. For five years, we’ve held Whidbey Island Bioneers Conferences at the Whidbey Institute to bring this work to our region. In 2014, we rebranded as the Salish Sea Bioneers to honor our growing focus on bioregional collaboration and movement-building. We are excited to collaborate with the myriad bioregional efforts that are underway to make our communities models of what is possible when we learn to work with, rather than against, nature. In this collaborative spirit, we recently launched a series of Salish Sea Bioneers Community gatherings, which take place monthly at Seattle Impact Hub. This learning community has already gathered together Seattle-area citizens to learn with leaders in community solar, compassionate communication, and community rights with Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s Democracy School. By popular demand, we’ll be hosting a follow-up Democracy School meeting on April 8 with members of Seattle’s chapter to continue exploring community rights.

Whether we’re working in the fertile soil of the Westgarden at Chinook, gathering with regional climate leaders, or learning in the National Bioneers community about issues and solutions affecting us all on a global scale, one thing is certain: if we are going to take adequate care of the planet which so fully cares for each of us, we must begin with ourselves and start at home. We’re deeply grateful to ECO Net and the many individuals and organizations in our community who have taken this lesson to heart, and who live by example into our promising future.

DeerWIThe Whidbey Institute’s 100 acre campus includes miles of trails, which are open to the public from dawn to dusk daily. As this is a wildlife preserve, we ask that dogs be left at home. We also invite the public to our weekly Westgarden volunteer work parties, which take place from 9 to 12 each Thursday and which will extend to 4 pm as the harvest season draws nearer.

To learn more about the Chinook land or the programs of the Whidbey Institute, visit or email