Apply to become a beach watcher by Feb. 26

By Nicholas Johnson | Feb 08, 2017

While the state is planning a new ferry terminal and the city is planning to makeover the waterfront, Bernie Busch says he’ll be watching the beach.

“There will be challenges,” he said, “and those require an educated community to not destroy but enhance the very important resource that is Puget Sound.”

As an experienced beach watcher, the 74-year-old Mukilteo man says he knows first-hand how vulnerable life is in the intertidal zone.

“People don’t always understand how vulnerable the Sound is to the huge population growth happening around it,” he said. “The Sound is a phenomenal resource, both environmentally and economically. If we don’t understand it, we risk hurting it in our ignorance.”

Busch was recently retired from a career in social work when he heard about the WSU Snohomish County Extension Beach Watchers in 2007 and applied to volunteer.

“The idea of being out on the beach and showing young people how to handle sea creatures sounded great to me,” he said. “It has opened up a whole world of learning and educating and working with the community.”

Busch is one of 10 volunteers in Mukilteo and 90 countywide. Each year, the program graduates about 18 beach watchers from its 80-hour, university-caliber training program.

“We pull in over 35 different speakers and plan classroom and field trip explorations, so it truly is an immersion,” said Chrys Bertolotto, the extension’s natural resource programs manager, adding that fewer people have been registering in the last few years.

This year’s training takes place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Fridays from March 17 to May 19 and Saturdays from April 1-29 at McCollum Park, 600 128th St. SE in Everett. Applications are due by Feb. 26. Materials cost $55 (electronic) or $75 (hard copy).

Upon completion of the training, beach watchers are expected to complete and report 80 hours of volunteer time over the next two years.

“Our staffing is limited, so it is really the volunteers who do the fun and important on-the-ground work,” Bertolotto said, noting that no prior experience is required and volunteers can craft their own projects.

New beach watchers can join existing projects and committees, such as summer low-tide interpretation in Edmonds, Mukilteo and Kayak Point, intertidal beach monitoring, stormwater education, youth education, public seminar planning, water quality sampling, and festival education.

Busch said he’s worked as a naturalist helping people navigate the beach at low tide. He’s also manned informational kiosks, organized bulletin boards on the beach and given Power Point presentations in classrooms at Columbia and Olympic View elementary schools.

“When you have hundreds of people stomping around on the beach,” he said, “you just want to help them understand how vulnerable life is there and how to protect it.”

To apply, visit www.beachwatchers.wsu.edu/snohomish or email chrys@wsu.edu.

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