Let’s do right by Puget Sound

When I was young, a lot of years ago, we would come to Bainbridge for a week’s vacation. The beach was an infinite playground, especially for a city youngster like me. From morning to night we dug clams, fished, hunted for treasures, rode and swam our horses, found new birds for our house list, caught crabs, built driftwood and seaweed palaces, cooked over beach fires, poked at anemones under rafts, collected shells, beach glass and rocks with circles around them. It was a paradise. I vowed I would come back and live here. In 1973 I did.

This week my 11-year-old grandson, Will, and his sister, Annie, stayed with us. We spent time on the beach too, but it was different. No clams. No fish. No crabs. Not many birds. Little driftwood. Not much seaweed. Treasures (depending on your definition) still wash up occasionally in the form of boaters’ detritus, but not much life still exists – at least to the casual eye.

The continuing deterioration of Puget Sound’s health is indeed a gloomy prospect. But what’s really terrific is the rising tide (excuse the metaphor) of individuals, organizations and government bodies dedicated to turning the situation around and bringing back the beautiful and abundant Puget Sound life we used to know.

Bainbridge Islanders are in the forefront of this movement. For example, neighbors along Point White road are joining together to remove 500 feet of concrete walls, replacing them with earthen hills, or berms. The natural hydrology will be restored. The berms will protect the property against high water and at the same time replenish the beach with the small mineral matter it needs to support spawning small fish and other critters. This “starving” beach will once again receive the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy habitat.

Other island individuals and organizations have formed the Bainbridge Alliance for Puget Sound dedicated to improving Puget Sound’s health through education and political action. Last month they sponsored a forum where three scientists spoke on Bainbridge Island’s shoreline, its geology, plants and animals. More forums are planned and they are open to the public.

One of the most potentially powerful groups dedicated to improving the total Puget Sound basin is the Alliance for Puget Sound’s Shorelines, consisting of The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Lands and People For Puget Sound. They are working to preserve 1,000 miles of Puget Sound shoreline, develop new parks, support positive legislation and show people from all walks of life how they can get involved. They have already completed three new parks, improved protections on 872 miles of shorelines and restored 36 miles of previously damaged shorelines, all the result of local citizen action.

A great opportunity will occur between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday, July 5 at Fort Ward State Park. People For Puget Sound is hosting “Brilliant Colors of the Beach,” a low-tide beach walk guided by naturalists and promoted by “MudUp,” the grassroots education arm of the alliance. They will guide us in exploring the weird and wonderful creatures that, like us, make their homes along Puget Sound. You never know what might turn up! Bring the kids – a great chance to have some fun and learn a lot.

Bainbridge Island is a unique place. That’s why we live here. If we can bring back the health of our island’s shorelines and near-shore habitat, we can serve as a model to our Puget Sound neighbors. It starts with knowing the beach and loving the beach. Come join the “MudUp” campaign. Your grandchildren, as do mine, deserve our very best efforts.

For more information on ways to get involved in the effort to save Puget Sound, visit MudUp.org, where you’ll find a list of events and current Sound-related news.

Laura Lundgren is on the board of People for Puget Sound and co-founder of the Bainbridge Alliance For Puget Sound. She can be reached at 206-992-7082.

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