Parks Report Part One
Posted February 24, 2017 at 5:51 am by Tim Dustrude
The trails and open spaces on the island are popular with both residents and visitors, but they don’t just appear out of nowhere. Where does the money come from to keep them open? What can members of the public do to help? This is the first in a series of reports by Louise Dustrude trying to answer those questions.
The National Park
Elexis Fredy has been superintendent of San Juan Island National Historical Park for just over a year now, and the park has fewer people working today than when she came.
The problem is two-fold. Employees who transferred out or retired last year cannot be replaced because of a three-month hiring freeze imposed by the new president, and she says that’s compounded by the long-term difficulty in hiring people “because of the lack of affordable housing on the island.”
Until recently the park had 21 employees, and now there are eight and a half year-round, plus two more full-time in the summer.
Some help is provided by volunteers. There are four retired couples who come in the summer to camp in their RVs and act as park hosts. There are several youth groups with up to 50 young people who help with trail building and maintenance — but they need adults to guide and supervise their work.
Lex would like to draw on the expertise of islanders for:
- Help with fundraising for the park
- Help in securing educational and interpretive funding
- Creating exhibits
- Arranging special events in the park, “such as a concert and barbecue on the parade ground”
- Activities for families
- Not just fundraising for the park, but also fundraising for other organizations using park facilities
“We don’t have baseline data for how people use the public spaces in the county,” she said. She and other “terrestrial managers” here from the state park, the county park, the land bank, and the national monument are planning to gather detailed data in May through October, using volunteers who are willing to be consistent, reliable, and unobtrusive.
Forest health data also needs to be collected by knowledgeable volunteers. The park hopes to hire scientists to design the questions, and have volunteers to collect answers.
Another possibility Lex sees would be if people are willing to rent houses to the park so that in turn they can be offered to new employees. She suggested some people who have been renting to tourists through airbnb might be tired of the incessant work required and might prefer a five-year lease with the park.
If you have any ideas you would like to share, please leave a comment below.
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