State parks depend on volunteers to survive

  • By Sharon Wootton
  • Friday, March 30, 2012 5:52pm
  • Life

If our state parks can survive in a recognizable form in this economic miasma, we can thank the volunteers.

Collectively, they have been the face of many parks during several years as shredded budgets lead to ranger layoffs and park closures. Last year, volunteers donated a staggering 271,260 hours of work, equal to 130 full-time employees.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has honored them with the 2011 Volunteer Recognition Awards. The star of the show may be Rookie of the Year Rick Colombo.

The Stanwood resident began volunteering at Deception Pass State Park last year after a 30-year career in the Navy. He enrolled in Skagit Valley Community College’s parks management program and did an interpretive internship at the park from April through August.

After graduating from beach naturalist training Colombo organized 25 volunteers to lead low-tide walks for more than 12,000 people during the summer and presented Junior Ranger programs among many other tasks, putting 7,500 miles on his car between Stanwood and the park just for the Beach Watcher program.

“There are a lot of jobs at Deception Pass, and they all begin with the letter V,” Colombo said.

Another Stanwood resident, Christine Longdon, also was recognized by the parks commission with the Outstanding Contribution by an Individual award.

She started volunteering to present marine and environmental education programs at Camano Island and Cama Beach state parks.

Her passion for a clean environment inspired her to organize an event she named CamOcean in 2010 to raise public awareness about stewardship of our marine environment.

The logistics were formidable as she coordinated with 26 organizations and individuals. The event included displays, live music, low tide beach and forest walks, speakers, activities for children and boat rentals.

The park tallied 1,035 cars entering the park for the 2010 event, with a total of 3,622 visitors.

The 2011 CamOcean day also focused on the environment.

The Whidbey Island Retired Chief Petty Officer Association in Oak Harbor won the Group of the Year Award for its volunteer efforts at Rasar State Park.

Would you like to volunteer in a state park? Call Cindy Jorgensen, volunteer program coordinator, at 360-902-8612.

Plan, pack, pedal: Jeff and Louise Davis have burned through a lot of bicycle tires while exploring the United States and Canada. They have pedaled more then 50,000 miles, making them experts on planning, packing and pedaling long distances.

The couple will share their long-distance expertise at a Cascade Bicycle Club presentation at 7 p.m. April 10 at REI, They’ll discuss themes, easy riding or challenging distances or terrain, resources, meals and lodging choices, safety, and the science of packing.

For more information, call 206-522-3222, or go to

On the bookshelf: I love Harbour Publishing’s series of water-resistant pocket-sized full-color guides. The latest is Daniel Winkler’s “A Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest” ($8).

The eight-fold vertical guide is easy to use. It includes a color diagram of the parts, a clear set of symbols as to whether a particular mushroom is edible and the author’s choice, or just good to eat, take caution or poisonous.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or

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