Chuckanut Island Ivy Pull

Written by Ann Frost, Wild Whatcom’s Girl’s Explorer’s Club
Drawing by Clara Johnson, Wild Whatcom’s Girl’s Explorer’s Club

Photographed by Milo Zorzino, Volunteer Photographer

A mother goose sitting on a nest of eggs, brilliantly colorful starfish on the rocks, dozens of beautiful madrona trees, sandstone carved into patterns by the water, and heaps of shells from natives who lived hundreds of years ago. These are only a few of the amazing things we saw on an expedition to Chuckanut Island with my Girls Explorers Club group from Wild Whatcom, an organization devoted to outdoor exploration and service. We also saw some things that weren’t so great, that shouldn’t have been there: bird skeletons caught in fishnets, a bit of litter and garbage on the beaches, but most of all we saw invasive ivy, and that’s why we were there. The Nature Conservancy gave us a great chance to help preserve Chuckanut Island, an amazing little bit of the natural world.

Chuckanut Island is about five acres, a small island in Chuckanut Bay. Despite the fact that you can hear trains passing on the mainland and houses line the bay in most directions, it still feels like wilderness. A few unmaintained trails trace the edge of the island, and trees over 250 years old host the nests of eagles and herons. Cliffs of sandstone are covered in beautiful swirls and dips, and are dappled with honeycomb patterns sculpted by the sea over centuries of tides going in and out.The very first people on the island, tribes of native Americans, used it seasonally, and left behind are large middens of oyster shells.

We met with community volunteers and a few staff from the Nature Conservancy and took a small motorboat out to the island. We spent 4+ hours on the island, exploring and pulling invasive ivy. For years now, Wild Whatcom has taken groups out to the island, but there’s always more ivy to pull. Ivy and other invasive plants work against the natural biodiversity and can overwhelm native plants, so it’s very important that we devote some time and effort into pulling invasive plants like ivy.

The hours that we spent on the island helped all of us to connect to nature in a very rare and beautiful way. Knowing that we were making a difference and helping the world around us even in a small way was an amazing experience. I, and many others, walked away with a satisfaction and hope that had been lacking beforehand. Thank you so much to the Nature Conservancy for giving us such an amazing chance to connect with and help conserve nature.

In celebration of Earth Day, volunteers came to pull invasive ivy that has started to spread on the island, in order to maintain its nearly pristine conditions.  This preserve features intertidal habitat, a wooded trail, and beautiful madrone trees on sandstone cliffs. See more from the day in the slideshow above!