Celebrating 5 years of coming together for the Migratory Bird Festival at Camp Casey and Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.
Who would have dreamed that a national forest, a housing non-profit and an environmental education organization would team up to provide outdoor experiences? Or that 14 years later they’d be celebrating 5 years of coming together for the Migratory Bird Festival at Camp Casey and Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve?
Starting in 2001, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest , the North Cascades Institute and the International District Housing Alliance (IDHA) began a partnership that has expanded over the years to include inter-generational learning for elders and stewardship projects for youth.
Each of the three partners plays a distinct role in the program. The first partner, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in the Puget Sound Region of Washington State, is the largest urban forest in Region Six of the Forest Service. The staff works directly with the program’s youth to get hands on experience in a natural setting, often their first time outside the urban environment. The second partner, the North Cascades Institute, is a non-profit organization focusing on education. The IDHA, the third partner, is a non-profit organization located in Seattle’s International District that has successfully worked to improve the quality of life for Asian and Pacific Islanders by providing community building and housing related services to low-income individuals and families.
Forest Service biologist, Jim Chu’s goal with the formation of this partnership was to get the youth out into the forest to gain wilderness experience. “The youth participate in many forest activities like Eagle Watchers, trail restoration and learn the importance of forest ecosystems”, says Jim Chu.
This past April participants from the Puget Sound area including the Mount Vernon Police Department, the National Park Service, Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, Skagit Audubon Society and many volunteers came together to continue to learn about migratory birds while spending time exploring Ebey’s Landing. In attendance this year were approximately 45 youths between the ages of 5-18 from Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Program – a year-round educational initiative that engages young people from three Skagit Valley neighborhoods in a series of outdoor activities including all-day field trips and after-school programs; the Interim WILD group consisting of 60 teenagers and elders – a community building program that is part of the IDHA that encourages Asian and Pacific Islander youth to become responsible citizens for their communities; and the Seattle Parks and Rec Outdoor group that encourages community service and weekend trips for teenagers.
The agenda was full of discussions and games around Migration and Conservation held at Camp Casey, with bird watching at Crockett Lake and closing ceremonies back at Camp Casey around the Fire Pit.
The weekend ended with about 10-20 kids spending the night to participate in the WILD Youth service project removing noxious weeds from the trails around Ebey’s Landing. The trail work restores the paths and makes it easier for hikers to use. Or as WILD says: “It (WILD) no longer means out of control but rather growing, with an understanding for the environment, community and elders, while learning leadership skills for the future.” It was an effort recognized in the opening ceremony for the weekend by Kristen Griffin, Reserve Manager at Ebeys, who said their cleanup role “means you’re stewards of Ebey’s Landing!”