If you haven't already, take a trip out to Ebey's Landing and enjoy this local treasure for yourself!
When I started in my job as Volunteer Coordinator almost 3 years ago one of my first goals was to meet all of our active volunteers. Many introductions were made by email which took a while for me to actually connect with some of these volunteers in person. For about 2 years I would receive an email every few months from one dedicated volunteer, summarizing the hours he had spent pulling scotch broom at our Ebey’s Landing Preserve on Whidbey Island. I was impressed by his hard work and determination to reduce the amount invasive scotch broom at the preserve. Al Frasch work on at Ebey's Landing was entirely self-motivated as I had not reached out to him or directed him to do participate in this work. He saw an issue, took matters into his own hands and did his part to help protect Ebey's Landing native landscape.
Now Ebey’s Landing is almost free of invasive Scotch Broom, and we have Al Frasch to thank. This is why we are highlighting Al in our November Volunteer Spotlight! Get to know Al in the interview below and read about his experience as a TNC volunteer.
The Nature Conservancy: What is your volunteer role? How long have you been volunteering with The Nature Conservancy? Do you volunteer anywhere else?
Al Frasch: In 2005, I was on a volunteer scotch broom pulling day up on Ebey’s Bluff on Whidbey Island. We were picking everything we could find from new shoots an inch high to three foot bushes. This was the second of my times doing this, with the volunteer times being two years apart. Well, I foolishly said ‘well to do any good, someone should come out several times a year to make sure that none of the plants ever go to seed again.’ I was looked at by the leader of the Conservancy volunteer group with the ‘well why don’t you do it?’ I was stuck! And since then, I have been out several times a year - monthly at first, three times a year lately. The problem has been reduced to the point where I am able to do the “job” in a couple of hours where it was once much longer.
I have volunteered for many TNC activities when I can. The most fun has been the many times that I have had the privilege of going out to Yellow Island - such a beautiful place! The limiting factor is that coming from Whidbey Island, it is a bit of a hassle just to get to some of the volunteer locations. I have done the 2 hour each way trip to Livingston Bay on three occasions, and have had a great time!
TNC: Where are you from? How long have you been living in Washington?
AF: I am a born and bred Washingtonian and have lived here for all but 4 1/2 of my 67 years.
TNC: Anything about your career or schooling you would like to share?
AF: After graduating as a proud Husky from the UW, I had the pleasure of being a middle school and high school mathematics teacher for 30 years and retired from Cascade High School in the Everett School District.
TNC: What inspired you to start volunteering with The Nature Conservancy?
AF: After retiring, I looked for an organization to volunteer for that represented my own views of how to make this world a better place. The first activity was a planting of native flowers on Ebey’s Bluff. I worked very hard and was hooked.
TNC: What gives you the most hope for the future?
AF: Don’t know if it will happen, but I certainly hope that our nation will wake up to the fact that we must confront the role that humans are having in the degradation of our environment and the changing climate. For some of our politicians to act as though global warming does not exist is short-sighted and on the same level as the tobacco companies who denied the effects of tobacco products so as to continue to make profits.
TNC: What's your favorite thing to do when you're not volunteering?
AF: I am an avid model railroader, with a very large layout in the basement and do volunteering at the local, state and national level to help promote the hobby as a great retirement activity. My train layout is known regionally and nationally, which is quite rewarding.
TNC: How does volunteering make you feel?
AF: Tired. But, seriously, I feel very good to see that pile of scotch broom that was pulled and knowing that I am making a difference. Also, I am asked by many people who are walking the Ebey’s Bluff trail - if you haven’t been there, do it! - what am I doing and what is that strange tool? The weed wrench does look a little weird, but after explaining what I am doing, it is nice to have almost everyone say ‘thank you’ for my efforts.
TNC: What is your favorite Nature Conservancy preserve or project?
AF: Yellow Island! Anything that I am asked to do, from planting to cutting weeds to stacking wood from the tree cutting once.
TNC: What do you think the world will be like in 50 years?
AF: Warmer, more crowded, but, hopefully, with both curves past the inflection point and under control.
TNC: Who is your environmental hero?
AF: Al Gore, the 43rd President. . . er, oops . . . anyway, because he has at least helped to highlight the problem we have with mankind’s heating of the world.
TNC: Have you ever convinced someone to do something they didn't want to do?
AF: Besides a hundred to hundred and fifty kids each day to do their homework? No, I try to inform people as to the facts and let them decide. In this post-factual climate, this is getting harder.
TNC: Is there anything you would like to see The Nature Conservancy doing that we are not already doing?
AF: TNC needs to create more “custodians” of areas like I do on Ebey’s Bluff. I think that my 10+ years have shown the positive effect of having someone local to go out several times a year to work on their own time. Much more flexible for the individual and they can get a better handle on the situation than a group coming out every couple of years. I know very precisely where to look and how far down that darn hillside I need to go. Now if those seeds weren’t viable for so many years!
TNC: Keep up the great work Al! We definitely want to recruit more volunteers like you. And we would love to see that model train setup!
Photographed by Ling LV & Shengyuan Zhang
Xinying Zeng is on a mission to connect members of Seattle’s Chinese community with The Nature Conservancy both here and in China.
She recently partnered with community organization Chinese Meet Seattle to lead a hike at Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island, where the Conservancy owns the Robert Y. Pratt Preserve.
“The hike was great, with around 50 people joining,” Xinying reports. “They were appreciative of the trip and information our volunteers provided.”
Written & Photographed by Zoe van Duivenbode, Marketing Intern
As we drove away from an unusually sunny Seattle, we headed north to spend the day at the Nature Conservancy's Ebey's Landing preserve to meet with our volunteer docent team and hike the coastal bluff trail. On our drive up, we entered into a thick wall of grey fog, concealing the beauty of Deception Pass and Whidbey Island. It being my first time visiting Whidbey Island, I was excited to sit back and experience the scenic views along the drive. Although the fog had another plan in mind for us. The views of Deception Pass were quite deceptive as we could only see fog, the road, and more fog.
Once we reached Ebey's Landing, we greeted our volunteer docents who inform guests and hikers about the Preserve and answer any questions they may have about the trail. After listening to them share some of their favorite stories from the season, the thick fog slowly began to burn off, unveiling the vibrant blue sky, coastal waters, and forested islands. The bluff trail was nearly perfect, offering a variety of different views, like the vast agricultural lands, the wind-kissed trees and the large salt water lagoon. Nearing the end of the hike, I felt inspired by the beauty that was all around me and excited to be returning to Ebey's Landing in a week to celebrate the National Park Service's centennial birthday and the beginning of a new trail.
Written and Photographed by Nathan Hadley, Northwest Photographer
One of my favorite pastimes while living on Whidbey Island three years ago was to run to Nature Conservancy’s Ebey’s Landing, taking a rural road north from the old barracks of Fort Casey. The road rises over a hill and drops down into a small farmed valley. The valley—which would make many inclined toward the earth want to quit their job and start farming—opens into Ebey’s Landing State Park, facing the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Along the shoreline, the bluffs drop down towards a small gravel parking lot and then rise again. The Nature Conservancy’s land begins as the bluff nears its climax to the north.
I hiked up that bluff recently, for the first time since my time on Whidbey a few years ago. It was a beautiful December day, splendidly dressed in thousands of shades of grey, earthen green and blue. The wind was as wild as I had felt it in awhile—louder and stronger than my last day climbing high in the North Cascades in early fall. It was invigorating. My friend, Joel, and I didn’t bother with talking. It wasn’t worth it, so we turned inward.
I was struck by the wind-stunted and twisted Douglas firs. It didn’t seem like they were the same species as those lining tall along many Pacific Northwest roads. Of course I knew wind could turn and twist trees in such a way, as I was a proper naturalist, according to myself. “Are you sure these are Douglas firs?” I asked Joel. He pulled a clump of needles to his face, examined some identifying characteristic I didn’t know about, and reassured me that they were.
I think it’s fair to say that the same wind that shaped these trees, shaped me as well, though only for a short time three years ago.
And yet, as I walked along those trees high on the bluff on that blusterous day, I felt the wind’s imprint and realized the course that it had set in my own growth.
Select images from our Whidbey Walk Instameet
Photographed by (1-4) Jesse Williams; (5-6) Valeriy Poltorak; (7) Crystal Southcote; (8) The Nature Conservancy in Washington
Our Earth Month Instameet!
Video by Don Macanlalay, Social Media & Digital Marketing Manager
This past Saturday, we co-hosted our first public Instameet with Instagrammers Seattle and enjoyed sunset at our Ebey’s Landing Preserve on Whidbey Island! In this golden hour hike, we shared the work we do on Whidbey Island to keep Washington beautiful and gave away prizes including a set of Moment Lenses! Get a glimpse of what our day was like in this cool video!
By Kiara Serantes, Photography Intern
For as long as I can remember I’ve been absolutely in love with Washington’s nature. From obsessing over hundred-foot coniferous wonders, to towering mountains that split the horizon like a jagged smile, this love of nature led me to intern at the Nature Conservancy over summer.
Recently, I saw it pay off when I was lucky enough to be invited on a field trip with the Conservancy’s Social Media Manager, Don Macanlalay, and nine guests. Those guests are popular photographers from the networking site Instagram, who came on the trip to explore Ebey’s Landing National Reserve, now federal park that used to be one of The Nature Conservancy’s preserves. Our objective was to take photos and inspire fellow users of the site to get out and appreciate Washington nature.
When we first pulled into the parking lot of Ebey’s Landing, located on Whidbey Island, I was instantly struck by the serene beauty of the Puget Sound. The water seemed to stretch vastly before me, being met by other faded scenes of seemingly far away land masses. Now, I would not consider myself a photographer, but there at Ebey’s I had suddenly felt the urge to at least try and capture the beauty that was all around me. The inspiration was tangible as the photographers rhythmically dispersed into their own digital narratives.
We began moving up the trail as a scattered group, each individual stopping in random ways to capture photos of the different landscapes and wildlife. Passing a vast field of grain and moving up a hill that stretched suddenly up from the shore (which at times had felt more like a small mountain), the photographers seemed to be able work effortlessly. The wildflowers bloomed vibrantly, coating the hill as if they were warming it from the sometimes heavy coastal winds. It was while on this trail and on this hike (my first experience out hiking since I had been back from my stressful first year of college) when it hit me just how much I had missed the low-stress and completeness of being in nature.
It’s really easy to get caught up in professional lives; after all, working is necessary for support and certain ambitions. Working is important for many reasons, but just as important is remembering the reason why we go to work each day; it’s important to remember the beauty all around us, and the things and people we love.
As someone who’s lived in Washington State my entire life, it was too easy to overlook the lush beauty and nature all around me. My mind had remained focused on my career goals for so long. Ironically, it was through my own professional life as an intern that I was able to remember just how calming and supportive being in nature can feel.
In an ever technologically growing society, it’s important now more than ever to remember the things we love and reconnect with the now abundant nature. There doesn’t have to be a divide between technology and nature; a divide from work and what you love. So go out and find your own Ebey’s Landing; go out and be inspired to share the nature that exists all around us. At the very least, it will give you a chance to take some really cool pictures!