MONROE — Jim Weisenbach always has been an outdoorsy guy.
Weisenbach, 70, grew up in rural New Jersey. His family owned at least 10 acres, mostly woods. He would hike back to a stream and catch frogs.
“I’ve always been comfortable in the woodlands like that,” he said.
He fell in love with the Pacific Northwest when he headed to Oregon for college. He moved to Washington 45 years ago and now lives on the north side of Marysville. He’s a semi-retired optometrist and works a couple of days a week.
The Snohomish Conservation District has recognized Weisenbach as a dedicated volunteer. He regularly helps with multiple projects, including the annual plant sale that took place Feb. 11 this year.
Weisenbach learned about the conservation district more than six years ago. The church he and his wife, Jan, attended at the time — Bethlehem Lutheran in Marysville — owned land with a stream on it. The church started working with the conservation district on a restoration project. Weisenbach helped with the plantings and documented the project, including before and after photos. He enjoys taking photos of plants, wildlife and scenery.
Weisenbach got to know the people who work for the conservation district. He decided to enroll in the organization’s Backyard Habitat program, where he learned how to spot and care for native plants on his own property.
Before starting his volunteer work with the conservation district, Weisenbach said he found animals more interesting than plants. Now, he loves identifying, growing and learning about local flora.
“The native wildlife needs the native plants,” he said. “You can’t have one without the other.”
Weisenbach has helped set up for the plant sale and volunteered on sale day for the last four years. He assists with separating, sorting and selling plants. He’s there to answer questions and show shoppers around.
Weisenbach gathers up the mulch that drops onto the floor from plants when they are being separated and sorted. He takes it home for his own yard, and every year there are “mystery plants” that spring up from that soil because they were mixed in with the mulch. He enjoys watching them grow and trying to identify them.
He takes photos of plants he doesn’t recognize so he can ask the staff at the conservation district to help him identify them.
“I’ve stumped them sometimes, but they figure it out and let me know,” he said. “They’re real nice people and that’s what makes it easy to be part of their organization on a volunteer basis.”
Among Weisenbach’s favorite native plants are trillium and bear grass.
He also helps out at the nursery where the conservation district grows plants for stream plantings and other projects. It never seems like work when he’s doing something he likes, he said. He’s found that it’s easy to volunteer.
“Just show up, be interested, be willing to put in the time,” he said. “Some of it is physically harder work, but no one expects you to work beyond your abilities.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Snohomish Conservation District, go to snohomishcd.org or call 425-335-5634.