JANE WINCKLER WEBB PHOTO
PENINSULA — A new club for bird lovers around Willapa Bay is coming together.
About 20 people gathered in Long Beach for the Audubon Coastal Ambassador program kickoff meeting on Oct. 26.
Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Washington Trina Bayard said members are still figuring out what they’d like to focus on as a group. At the first meeting, she said, there was a lot of interest in working to increase opportunities for birding tourism in the area. There was also a lot of support for helping an effort to start a local birds, art and nature festival.
“Celebration of bird life can have a really powerful result,” Bayard said.
Although she’s a Seattleite, Bayard was quick to pick up on a common conflict for people who live on the Peninsula during the two-hour meeting.
On one hand, she said, they want more tourists to visit because it helps the local economy and shows off the beauty of the area. But, on the other, a lot of locals don’t exactly love it when the large crowds come.
The group discussed ways to eliminate the strain an influx of travelers can put on small-town services and public facilities, such as restrooms, Bayard said. They also talked about needs in the area and how they could help.
Bayard told the Observer there’s often tension among various bird groups, too.
She said some people join to further the avian political agenda by working toward public policy changes that support conservation, protect birds and preserve their habitats. Others, she said, want to be a part of a group simply to enjoy looking at birds and learning more about them.
It’s too early to tell where on the spectrum the Willapa Bay group will fall. Bayard said Audubon has been considering starting the local program for almost a year. Now that Willapa Bay is a designated site of international importance in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network strategy to protect habitats across the Americas, she said, the time seemed right.
“We’re looking to build on the local network of people who care about birds,” Bayard said.
Organizers plan to meet with the local Willapa Hills Audubon chapter to figure out the next steps and plan the next meeting.
More information on the Coastal Ambassadors program is available on the Washington Audubon website at audubon.org/conservation/audubon-coastal-ambassadors.