Beaches of Whatcom County are the focus of this year's Junior Stewards program, a summertime family activity sponsored by the Whatcom Land Trust.
It's part of an annual effort by the nonprofit conservation organization aimed at getting area residents to appreciate the beauty of Whatcom County. The program is targeted at third- through fifth-graders, but people of any age will enjoy the featured locations.
This summer's theme is "adaptations," with a special focus on intertidal life, said Natalie Whitman, outreach coordinator for the land trust.
"The intertidal zone is just perfect because so many adaptations are represented there," Whitman said.
Creatures of all kinds that inhabit the intertidal zone must be able to endure a life of extremes - periodic exposure to sun, wind and air at low tide, followed by submersion and sometimes pounding surf at low tide. Predators can come from the land, sea and sky, and many creatures have developed unique defenses or abilities to help them survive.
As an example, Whitman cited the common black oystercatcher.
"The oystercatcher is a shorebird that uses a chisel-like beak to open shellfish," she said, explaining how the bird manages to overcome the defenses of its food source.
Here's how the program works: Get a Junior Stewards workbook and complete the four self-guided activities at your own pace through the summer. Activities are focused on three sites in Whatcom County: Teddy Bear Cove on Chuckanut Bay south of Bellingham; Point Whitehorn south of Birch Bay; and Lily Point at Point Roberts.
All three places are county parks that have free admission. The fourth activity allows participants to focus on a beach of their choice in Whatcom County.
Beaches often are more interesting at low tide. Check Bellingham Bay tidal information online at dairiki.org/tides/daily.php/bel. There are minus tides later this month and during the third week of July.
More information about the parks, including maps, is online at co.whatcom.wa.us/parks or call the county Parks and Recreation Department at 360-733-2900.
No restroom facilities exist and parking is limited at the remote Teddy Bear Cove site. Park at the North Chuckanut Mountain trailhead near Chuckanut Drive and California Street and follow the well-signed Interurban Trail for an easy hike to the beach. There are restrooms and ample parking at the Point Whitehorn trailhead, but no beach facilities. Lily Point requires a border crossing into Canada and back into the U.S. at Point Roberts. After your visit to Lily Point, let the kids run on the beach and build driftwood sculptures at the county's nearby Lighthouse Marine Park. Stop for dinner or ice cream in White Rock, B.C., on the way back.
Those who complete the activities should return the workbooks to the land trust, where their names will be entered into a prize drawing based on the number of activities they complete - those who complete all four activities get four chances to win, and so on.
A drawing on Saturday, Aug. 18, will select a winner for the grand prize, which is a sailboat cruise for the winner's family on Bellingham Bay. Whitman said there will be other prizes, too, and the winners need not be present at the drawing.
Whitman said a partner in the Junior Stewards program is the Marine Life Center in the Port of Bellingham complex at 1801 Roeder Ave. near Bellwether Way. It features tide pool touch tanks, small aquariums and displays about the creatures that inhabit the coastal waters and intertidal zones of the Salish Sea.
It's open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through August, with hours changing for the off-season. Admission is free but a small donation is encouraged. For more information, go online to marinelifecenter.org.
Further information about intertidal life is found at beachwatchers.wsu.edu/ezidweb.
Download a Junior Stewards workbook at whatcomlandtrust.org. In addition, they are available free at any public library in Whatcom County; at Village Books, corner of 11th Street and Mill Avenue in Fairhaven; and at of the land trust office, 110 Central Ave., just east of Commercial Street. Drop off the completed books at the land trust office or mail to Whatcom Land trust, P.O. Box 6131, Bellingham, WA 98227.
For more information about the program, contact Whitman at Natalie@whatcomlandtrust.org or call 360-650-9470.
ROBERT MITTENDORF is a Herald copy editor and page designer. Suggest your ideas for local family-friendly events or day trips at 360-756-2805 or at email@example.com.