Washington Water Trails Association Programs
Changes to Puget Sound in the past century move us to become more cognizant of our effect on the environment. WWTA serves a constantly growing demand for information about the state’s miles of freshwater and marine shorelines. Several years ago, a SCORP (Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan) stated that 85% of the state’s population already visited the shoreline several times a year. This heightened use over time has a huge potential to impact shoreline habitats in negative ways. WWTA continues with volunteer work parties to care for shore lands, and with proven programs rooted in Leave No Trace principles: 1) WWTA’s volunteer Site Steward Program; and, 2) the Sound Education and Action (SEA) Kayaker program.
In the Site Steward Program, volunteers serve as WWTA’s eyes and ears on the trail. Site Stewards monitor environmental integrity, reporting on access points in need of restoration work, on the effects of user impacts as well as the growth of invasive species. Data collected informs both land managers and WWTA, helping to direct restoration efforts through volunteer work parties.
The SEA Kayaker program mirrors and magnifies the efforts of WWTA volunteers during peak summer months, spending 4 days every week—Friday through Monday—reaching out to the public at Cascadia Marine Trail sites throughout Puget Sound. This pair performs an integral role in educating people about public waterway access issues using Leave No Trace principles, and in recruiting new volunteers to expand the work.
Since 2003, WWTA has graduated close to 70 individuals as Leave No Trace Trainers. This multiplies the reach of WWTA’s mission exponentially; expanding outwards to thousands more people and builds a strong base for environmental stewardship.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Environmental stewardship impels WWTA’s SEA Kayaker Team, an outreach program aimed at users of public access sites along the Cascadia Marine Trail. This team performs an integral role. In the 2011 season, they instructed over 600 people, with several hundred more people being exposed to the work of Washington Water Trails Association. This was a 17% increase over each the last two years the program ran. Their work took the SEA Kayaker Team through eleven Puget Sound Counties (Whatcom, San Juan, Skagit, Island, Snohomish, King, Pierce, Thurston, Mason, Kitsap, and Jefferson) surrounding the Cascadia Marine Trail.
The Cascadia Marine Trail is currently the subject of a Washington DC study-bill to be designated a National Scenic Trail. At a December 2011 meeting of the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee Hearings, the Deputy Director of the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, stated that the “Department supports H.R. 2490”… and continued, “The Cascadia Marine Trail has been used for over five thousand years by Native Americans, early explorers and today’s wind and hand-propelled watercraft enthusiasts. The Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the continental United States and is home to populations of seals, bald eagles, orca whales and nearly 4 million humans living in the surrounding watershed area… The Cascadia Marine Trail has a long and significant history in the state of Washington…”
Please have your friends, family, and colleagues gather support for H.R. 2490, and have everyone contact their representatives in the House and Senate. Thank you! In the meantime, work is ongoing. In a rare and unprecedented opportunity, negotiations have begun to add 35 NEW public access sites to the Cascadia Marine Trail.