Category Archives: Recreation

Sandra Staples-Bortner to retire from Great Peninsula Conservancy

Sandra Staples-Bortner, executive director of the Great Peninsula Conservancy, will retire at the end of this month after 11 years on the job. Those involved in the regional land trust say she will leave the organization much larger and stronger than before her arrival.

Sandra Staples-Bortner
Photo: Kenna Cox

Great Peninsula Conservancy — which protects salmon streams, forests and shorelines — was formed in 2000 by the merger of four smaller land trusts: Kitsap, Hood Canal, Indianola and Peninsula Heritage land trusts. See Kitsap Sun, May 23, 2000.

The goal was to create an organization large enough to hire full-time staff and manage a growing slate of properties, according to Gary Cunningham, longtime board member who was instrumental in the merger. The conservancy struggled financially in its early years, he said, but Sandra helped turn things around.

“She has definitely done the things that the board knew had to be done to make this a financially viable and stable organization that can protect property in perpetuity,” Gary told me.

Sandra was able to improve connections with people in the region, increase donations of land, implement fund-raising activities and ensure stewardship of the lands under control of the Great Peninsula Conservancy, he said. Sandra already understood the environmental issues, Gary added, and she quickly picked up on the legal and technical details — such as working out conservation easements to formalize land-management.

“We depend on the local community to keep us healthy,” Sandra told me. “Our founders did a great job in starting out, and we revise our procedures every couple of years to make things work better.”

With community support and grants from government agencies, the number of properties has grown along with more staffers to focus on specific efforts, such as acquisitions and fund-raising. The organization has played a role in conserving 10,500 acres, compared to 2,100 when Sandra arrived.

“I feel GPC has reached a strong point in time,” she said. “We have really talented, dedicated staff doing exciting conservation projects and reflecting desires to save this wonderful peninsula.”

Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder said Sandra played a critical role in the Kitsap Forest and Bay Campaign, as she helped coordinate a coalition of diverse groups. She also helped to make the conservancy a partner in the Hood Canal Coordinating Council’s In-Lieu Fee Mitigation Program, a process that allows for complete compensation for environmental damage from development.

“It has been a great partnership,” Rob told me. “Sandra has had that great can-do vision, and she has had her fingers in a lot of things that will leave a lasting legacy.”

One of the more recent goals is to increase the public’s connections to the properties, such as leading community hikes to view important fish and wildlife areas. Information kiosks are being constructed to provide information about some of the larger properties.

Another new project is an outdoor camp for at-risk individuals, she said. “Most of them have never done anything like hike or spend time outdoors.” See job post for NextGen Outdoors Camp.

“Sandra has a knack for connecting people to the land and inspiring people to want to help save it,” said GPC President Kit Ellis in a press release. “She has made it easy for each of us to make a difference by joining a volunteer work party or making a donation.”

I asked Sandra to describe the most important land acquisition that occurred during her tenure, and she started off by talking about the ecological values protected by the recent acquisition of Camp Hahobas, a former Boy Scout Camp.

Then she mentioned the massive Kitsap Forest and Bay Project in North Kitsap, Grover’s Creek Preserve near Indianola and Felucy Bay Reserve on the Long Branch Peninsula. She talked about working to save much of Petersen Farm as an agricultural property, then she started talking about smaller acquisitions of importance. I think she could have gone on and on, describing the natural values of each property without choosing a favorite — as one might talk about their children or grandchildren.

For reference, here are links to some of these properties:

“They all have interesting stories,” Sandra noted.

Acquiring property or conservation easements to protect a property often begins with a love of the land by a longtime property owner or by family members who inherit the beloved property, Sandra said.

“Many land owners are as much about saving land as we are,” she noted.

To maintain each property, the organization tries to get a cash donation, known as a stewardship bequest. If the owner wants to donate an important piece of land but cannot provide stewardship funding, then GPC will seek outside tax-deductible donations or government grants.

High priorities for acquisition are salmon streams, shoreline areas and connected forest parcels that can help preserve wildlife-migration corridors, Sandra said. Also important are properties that allow people to enjoy wildlife.

“We’re fortunate on this peninsula that we still have amazing timberlands,” she noted, adding that private and state forestlands contain key habitats and should be maintained as working forests as long as possible.

In her retirement, Sandra plans to travel with her husband, play with her two young grandchildren and spend even more time outdoors.

‘Survive the Sound’ salmon game now open to all with no charge

“Survive the Sound,” an online game that involves tracking salmon migrations in Puget Sound, has thrown open its doors for everyone, whether you donate money or not.

The idea of buying a salmon character to participate in the game has been abandoned after two years, and now the fish are free for the choosing. Long Live the Kings, which sponsors the game, still welcomes donations, of course, but money is not a prerequisite.

“We wanted to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to learn more about salmon and steelhead and support the movement to recover them,” Lucas Hall, project manager for LLTK, told me in an email. “So, we’ve simplified the sign-up process and eliminated any fees associated with participation.”

Eliminating the fees also makes it easy to form or join a team, which can consist of any number of people. The winner is the team with the greatest percentage of fish surviving to the end of the five-day migration. So far, more than 400 teams have been created among more than 2,000 players signed up for the game.

If you register with “Survive the Sound,” you will receive daily emails tracking your fish character, based on actual fish that were tracked during past research projects. Most fish characters in the game will perish somewhere along the way, as salmon do in real life, but some will make it all the way through Puget Sound to the ocean.

The deadline for joining the game is May 5. Go to “Survive the Sound” for details or to sign up. The game begins the following day.

Many teachers are involving their students in the game, which can be a springboard for describing the life cycle of salmon and the perils they face from egg to adult spawner. Last year, more than 30,000 students participated through their classroom, and many classroom teams continue. See “Getting started in the classroom” for classroom materials, including a live webinar involving salmon scientists.

If you have questions about the project, you can check with Lucas Hall, lhall@lltk.org.

Boaters, kayakers, etc.: Please take heed and be safe out on the water

With the weather warming up and opening day of boating season just around the corner, I would like to take a moment to mourn for those who have lost their lives in boating accidents.

A kayak adrift near Vashon Island raised alarms for the Coast Guard on March 31.
Photo: Coast Guard, 13th District

More importantly, I would like to share some information about boating safety, because I keep thinking about Turner Jenkins, the 31-year-old visitor from Bathesda, Md., who lost his life in January when his kayak tipped over at the south end of Bainbridge Island. (See Kitsap Sun and Bathesda Magazine.)

Every year, it seems, one or more people lose their lives in the frigid waters of Puget Sound — often because they failed to account for the temperature of the water; the winds, waves and currents; or their own skills under such conditions. An Internet search reveals a long list of tragedies in our region and throughout the country.

This warning is not to scare people away from the water. I will even tell you how to enjoy Opening Day events at the end of this blog post. I can assure you that my own life would be much poorer if I chose to never be on, near or under the water. But for those who venture forth in boats, you must do so with your eyes wide open to the dangers — especially if your craft is a paddleboard, kayak, canoe or raft.

So let’s go over the “Five Golden Rules of Cold Water Safety,” according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety. Click on each one for details:

  1. Always wear your PFD
  2. Always dress for the water temperature
  3. Field test your gear
  4. Swim test your gear
  5. Imagine the worst that can happen

While gathering information for this blog post, I spoke to Susan Tarbert, who manages West Marine in Bremerton. She told me that it is impossible to predict your body’s reaction to cold water until you are plunged into that bone-chilling situation.

Kayakers near Port Gamble
Photo: Kitsap Sun

“There are all kinds of things that you think you will do, but you just don’t know,” Susan told me.

She said she was out on Puget Sound in a boat with her husband when she leaned up against a gate on the boat’s rail. It was a gate that was always locked — until this time, she said. She splashed down into the water, wearing a heavy coat and boots.

“As my husband pulled me up, he said, ‘Don’t you know the first thing you do is take off your boots?’ Yes, I know,” Susan responded. “But when it happens, you are so cold that you just want out. Falling in the water is not what you think it will be.”

Since then, Susan has been spreading the word about being aware of the risks while having fun on the water.

Because everyone reacts to cold water differently, one of the suggestions mentioned in the “rules” above is to swim-test your gear before going out in a small watercraft. That means putting on whatever clothing you plan to wear on the water and jump right into the shallows, or tip over your boat under controlled conditions. The more you can do to prepare, the better off you will be if something goes wrong. For additional info, read Ocean Kayak’s “Basic Safety Tips.”

Because of the dangers of cold water, the Coast Guard automatically launches a search for a missing person whenever someone reports an unoccupied boat of any size floating on the water. That includes surfboards and paddleboards. KIRO-TV reporter Deedee Sun describes the problem in the video below, which can be viewed full-screen.

Coast Guard alarms went off on Sunday, March 31, when a Washington State Ferries captain reported a kayak adrift between Vashon Island and West Seattle. A Coast Guard crew began a search, which could have gone on for awhile except that a group of campers called in a report. It turned out that the kayak was one of five that had drifted away from the shore of Blake Island, where six kayakers had been camping. Check out the news release from the Coast Guard’s 13th District.

Even in Hawaii, drifting surfboards and kayaks frequently lead to the dispatching of boats, helicopters and shoreline search teams, based on the outside chance that someone may be in danger — even when there are no reports of missing persons. See the Honolulu Star Advertiser from April 2 and The Maui News from March 27.

Every year before boating season, the Coast Guard sends out news releases to encourage people to label their watercraft with names and phone numbers at a minimum.

“Every unmanned-adrift vessel is treated as a potential distress situation, which takes up valuable time, resources and manpower,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brook Serbu, command center chief for the Coast Guard’s 13th District in Seattle. “When the craft is properly labeled, the situation can often be quickly resolved with a phone call to the vessel owner, which minimizes personnel fatigue and negative impacts on crew readiness.”

The Coast Guard usually takes possession of drifting vessels. If the owner can’t be found in a reasonable amount of time, a vessel may be destroyed or turned over to the state for disposal, according to the latest news release.

The Coast Guard promotes the use of special identification stickers made available through the Coast Guard Auxiliary. I have had trouble the past few years getting hold of anyone in the Auxiliary who can provide the stickers, and my pleas for the Coast Guard to provide a simple email address or phone number have gone unheeded.

Auxiliary officials generally provide the Coast Guard’s orange “If found … “ stickers to outdoor recreation stores, but there seems to be a backlog of requests to get them at the moment, according to Susan Tarbert of West Marine. She still has a supply, however, of the Coast Guard’s silver “Paddle Responsibly” checklist, which has a place for a name and phone number. Both stickers contain adhesive on the back to attach to the inside of a kayak.

Susan also recommends sticking reflective circles on your paddles to help power boaters spot paddlers in low-light conditions. The movement of the paddles sends out a noticeable signal, she said. All the stickers, as well as informative brochures, are provided free, and officials with the local Coast Guard Auxiliary visit the stores to restock the materials.

Doug Luthi, manager of West Marine in Gig Harbor, says he has both stickers on hand. Drew Pennington, who manages the Olympic Outdoor Center store in Poulsbo, said he expects his supply to be restocked soon.

As for the fun part of boating, anyone can enjoy Opening Day, whether or not you have a boat or even know someone with a boat. Seattle Yacht Club leads the tradition that dates back to the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in 2013. Besides the boats that pass through the Ballard Locks and join the Parade of Boats in the ship canal, visitors can watch crew races, a sailboat race and other festivities.

Visit the Seattle Yacht Club’s “Opening Day” website for a complete schedule of events, which officially begin Wednesday, April 1.

Amusing Monday: “Just for Laughs: Gags” seen in more than 100 countries

Whether you think “Just for Laughs: Gags” is hilarious or inane, the hidden-camera pranks have been viewed in more than 100 countries around the world. They are even shown on airline flights between countries.

Since nobody talks in the videos, no translation is needed. At the beginning of each video segment, actors show the viewers what they plan to do to their unsuspecting victims. At the end, the pranksters introduce themselves, and the cameras are revealed.

The “Just for Laughs: Gags” webpage on YouTube contains an estimated 2,000 videos showing practical jokes of all kinds, mostly performed on city streets. (I gave up counting the number of videos about halfway through, and it would be near-impossible to figure out the number of page views.) For this blog post, I’ve chosen four water-related bits.

The original “Just for Laughs” is the name given to a comedy festival held each year in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Founded in 1983 by Canadian Gilbert Rozon, it is the largest and most important comedy show in the world, according to a 2007 story in The Guardian. (For more history, see Wikipedia.)

“Just for Laughs: Gags” borrowed the familiar name in 2000, when producers launched a new television prank show based on “Candid Camera.” It was shown first on the French Canadian television network Channel D and was later picked up by networks based in the United Kingdom, France, the U.S. and about 30 other countries. (Wikipedia)

For my taste, a few of these videos at a time is enough, but they are so ubiquitous on YouTube that you are likely to run into them at any time. Be careful or you will find yourself going down a rabbit hole and coming back with a few hours missing from your life.

Some people are perplexed that anyone would enjoy these videos. Keyan Gray Tomaselli, a South African communication professor, author and media critic, called the series “inane” in his book about cultural tourism after he watched some segments on a commercial flight. He also noted in his book that his comment elicited an apology from a Canadian friend of his.

But other people have praised the universal appeal of this type of humor, which harkens back to the days of silent films and slapstick comedy.

Major Ray Wiss, a Canadian soldier who wrote about his two tours in Afghanistan, said building a relationship with Afghan soldiers took more than just eating and playing cards with them. Television really broke the ice, he said, noting that “for pure social connection” there was nothing like “JFL: Gags.”

“The Afghans got the jokes and laughed as hard as I did,” Wiss wrote. “Yes, these people are different from us. But they are far less different than many would believe.” See the excerpt from “A Line in the Sand: Canadians at War in Kandahar.”

Celebrate Earth Hour tonight by taking time to discuss the future

Earth Hour, which celebrates the connections among people throughout the world, happens tonight between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. local time, when participants turn off their lights for an hour.

What each of us does with that hour is a personal decision, but it is a great time for families to get together and have some fun, with at least a passing discussion of the environmental issues that concern us.

People in more than 180 countries are participating this year in Earth Hour, according to the website of the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund), which started the event in 2007.

“Earth Hour 2019 is a powerful opportunity to start an unstoppable movement … to help secure an international commitment to stop and reverse the loss of nature,” Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said in a news release.

For many, turning off the lights is a symbolic commitment, a first step on the road to mass change. People in some countries have gotten together to set specific goals. People in Ecuador, for example, are pushing for a legal ban on certain plastics; Finland is encouraging a move toward healthier, sustainable foods; Morocco is educating people about saving water; and Indonesia is encouraging its youth to adopt greener lifestyles, according to organizers.

As I post this, Earth Hour is underway in India and already over in Australia and most of Asia.

Getting kids involved is part of the fun and education of the event. I thought the magazine “Chicago Parent” had some good ideas for involving young children with answers to a series of questions they might ask. Here’s a couple of them:

Why are the lights out?
“There are millions of people around the city and the world who want to make sure that we take care of planet Earth because it’s our home. Turning off the lights for an hour is called Earth Hour. It’s a celebration of our planet and a time for us to think about what we can all do to help protect it. Turning off the lights saves electricity and water, and saving resources like that is good for the planet.”

Should we turn off the lights every night then?
“Nope, not necessarily. This is what’s called “symbolic gesture.” We need to use electricity to get things done at night, and during the day, too. But if we are mindful about using electricity, water and other resources only when we need to and not using them or turning them off when we do not need them, that helps. We can be better about turning out the lights for a few minutes at a time, and eventually, that will add up.”

The Space Needle is one of Seattle’s landmarks scheduled to go dark tonight.
Photo: Doug Irvine, ©WWF Aus

Since the beginning, Earth Hour has been celebrated by those who control some of the world’s most-famous landmarks, from the Space Needle in Seattle to the Empire State Building in New York, Tower Bridge in London and Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

Other landmarks in Seattle that have gone dark in the past (I’m not sure about this year) include Key Arena, the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly Experience Music Project), Pacific Science Center, Showbox at the Market (downtown Seattle), Showbox SoDo. 1201 Third Avenue (formerly Washington Mutual tower) and University of Washington Tower, according to a story by KIRO-TV news.

Earth Hour is a partnership between WWF and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. Check out the Connect2Earth platform.

Amusing Monday: Evolution of sea snakes takes twists and turns

I’ve always felt fortunate that residents of Western Washington need not worry about encountering a deadly snake while hiking in our home territory. The same goes for divers and sea snakes — which are even more venomous than terrestrial snakes. The cold waters of Washington and Oregon tend to keep the sea snakes away.

The same used to be said for California, where sea snake sightings were once extremely rare. That has been changing, however, the past few years — especially during years when higher ocean temperatures encourage tropical creatures to make their way north. Is it just a matter of time before Washington scuba divers begin to report the presence of sea snakes?

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A new federal law recognizes Washington’s maritime heritage

The Maritime Washington National Heritage Area — which now encompasses about 3,000 miles of saltwater shoreline in Western Washington — was created yesterday within a wide-ranging lands bill signed into law by President Trump.

Maritime Washington National Heritage Area encompasses most of the saltwater shoreline throughout Western Washington.
Map: Maritime Washington NHA feasibility study

Created to celebrate the maritime history and culture of Puget Sound and Coastal Washington, the Maritime Washington NHA is the first designated area of its kind in the United States to focus entirely on maritime matters.

The designation is expected to provide funding to promote and coordinate maritime museums, historic ships, boatbuilding, and education, including discussions of early marine transportation and commerce in Washington state.

“We are thrilled about this,” said Chris Moore, executive director of the nonprofit Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. “The stories we want to convey are important to so many people.

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Salmon report mixes good and bad news, with a touch of hope

The story of salmon recovery in Washington state is a mixture of good and bad news, according to the latest “State of the Salmon” report issued by the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office.

It’s the usual story of congratulations for 20 years of salmon restoration and protection, along with a sobering reminder about how the growing human population in our region has systematically dismantled natural functions for nearly 150 years.

“We must all do our part to protect our state’s wild salmon,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news release. “As we face a changing climate, growing population and other challenges, now is the time to double down on our efforts to restore salmon to levels that sustain them, our fishing industry and the communities that rely on them. Salmon are crucial to our future and to the survival of beloved orca whales.”

The report reminds us that salmon are important to the culture of our region and to the ecosystem, which includes our cherished killer whales. It is, however, frustrating for everyone to see so little progress in the number of salmon returning to the streams, as reflected in this summary found in the report:

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Salmon treaty designed to boost spawning count and feed the orcas

Allowable fishing for chinook salmon in the waters of Canada and Southeast Alaska will be cut back significantly this year as a result of a revised 10-year Pacific Salmon Treaty between the United States and Canada.

Chinook salmon // Photo: NOAA Fisheries

The goal of the updated treaty is to increase the number of adult chinook returning to Washington and Oregon waters, where they will be available to feed a declining population of endangered orcas while increasing the number of fish spawning in the streams, according to Phil Anderson, a U.S. negotiator on the Pacific Salmon Commission.

Most chinook hatched in Washington and Oregon travel north through Canada and into Alaska, making them vulnerable to fishing when they return. Changes to the treaty should reduce Canadian harvests on those stocks by about 12.5 percent and Alaskan harvests by about 7.5 percent, Phil told me. Those numbers are cutbacks from actual harvests in recent years, he said, so they don’t tell the complete story.

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Amusing Monday: Energized super-senior just keeps on going

Nothing stops 91-year-old Canadian John Carter, who has been dubbed the “world’s most extreme grandpa.”

In a seven-minute video released in November, this super-senior from Trail, B.C., is shown diving off a high board, snowshoeing, jogging, cycling, fishing and weightlifting. He also practices a little baseball and soccer with the kids. Those feats are something to admire.

Carter apparently has inspired many people, including the video’s producer, Devin Graham, who calls Carter a legend in the general community around Trail. Graham wanted to produce a video to recognize Carter for his way of tackling life, both physically and mentally.

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