ILWACO - Willapa Bay's Long Island was the venue for an exceptional celebration of appreciation for the Friends of Willapa NWR on Saturday, Aug. 11. The Friends and Willapa Refuge staff co-sponsored their annual member appreciation event there with a barge trip to the Don Bonker Ancient Cedar Trail, followed by a hike and barbecue.
Nearly 100 enthusiastic hikers enjoyed the cruise from the refuge boat launch around the south end of Long Island to the Smokey Hollow campground. From there, Friends' President Katherine Mack Driscoll led the hikers through the old growth forest on the .25 mile trail that showcases the island's 300-plus acres of ancient cedars. The hike offered the hikers a view of the natural beauty of the island as well as glimpses of the native amphibian population including rough-skinned newts, Pacific tree frogs and red-legged frogs.
"Long Island is unique in hosting forests in multiple stages of development, including both healthy old growth habitat as well as younger stands of timber which are prime locations for reforestation efforts," observed Driscoll. "It is a great treat to be able to host our members to such an incredible place," continued Charlie Stenvall, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project leader for the Willapa Refuge Complex. "It's our way of saying thanks to all our Friends' members for helping us support our environmental education and public outreach programs."
The Long Island hikers' reward for their journey was an open-air barbecue of sockeye salmon, oysters, clam chowder, potato salad, garden salad and tasty brownies. The sunny and warm August weather was perfect for the gallons of lemonade and iced tea consumed by the hungry band of hikers gathered around their tables.
Local businesses and organizations supported the Friends barbecue with donations and contributions, including Jolly Roger Oysters, Jack's Country Store, Sid's IGA Supermarket, Okie's Sentry Market, Naselle Public School, Timberland Library, Ocean Park Eagles, Ilwaco Saturday Market, Food Service of America and Peninsula Boy Scout Troop 28.
"Community support is what makes this all happen," said Bev Arnoldy, Friends' event coordinator for the event. "Our regional businesses understand the importance and value of the Willapa Refuge to this area's economy and ecology."
Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge has over 400 members with over 60 active members who have volunteered over course of a year monitoring waterfowl and shorebirds, assisting with the controlled goose hunting season, teaching environmental education and Refuge appreciation to area elementary students, hosting adult education programs, helping field researchers with wildlife inventories, mapping invasive species habitat, funding the Salmon Interpretive Art Trail and guiding family and nature hikes through the Refuge.
"Numerous volunteer opportunities exist within this active Friends group," Stenvall said. "We rely on our Friends members for so many projects that in fact, the total amount of volunteer hours during our last fiscal year more than equaled the contribution of one full time staff employee."
Individuals interested in membership or learning more about the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge should contact Katherine Mack Driscoll at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit their Web site at (www.friendsofwillaparefuge.org).