Season Report 2021-2022
Joe Ordonez, Education Coordinator
March 1st, 2022
The 2021/2022 Season at the Skagit River Interpretive Center (SRIC) was a success. A new education coordinator was hired, volunteers trained, and the SRIC took responsibility for the naturalist-led walking tours. In addition to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, challenges included flooding, snow, heavy rain, road closures, fallen trees, fog and low eagle counts.
Here are some numbers that highlight the level of service SRIC was able to provide despite these challenges:
- SRIC was open for the general public 21 days during the months of December and January.
- 1076 visitors logged into the Center by our staff
- 904 visitors signed our guest book.
- 526 guests joined our nature walks.
- SRIC was open for special groups during the season and on two selected dates in February.
- 68 students and their parents visited us on three different dates as part of their homeschool programs
- 50 visitors from three other groups took advantage of special programming
- $3947.28 in donations were collected at the Center.
- $2387.31 in sales were made in our gift shop.
- 832.1 hours were logged by twelve volunteers.
- 207 hours were worked by the Education Coordinator between November, 2021 to March 1st, 2022.
The Skagit River Interpretive Center (SRIC), located in Rockport, Washington, opened in 1997. The mission of Skagit River Interpretive Center is to increase education about, appreciation for, and stewardship of the Skagit River Watershed ecosystem. This is accomplished through a variety of educational programs and by serving as a resource for visitor information.
The 2021/2022 season included the months of December and January. The Center was open to the public on weekends and selected days over the holidays. The Center also opened on two separate weekdays for private school group visits. Additionally, the Center opened two separate Saturdays in February for special groups. The programs were run entirely by volunteers with the exception of one paid staff position, the Education Coordinator.
Programs and Services:
SRIC provided the following programs and services during the 2021/2022 season:
- Natural history walks led by trained naturalist guides
- Walking tour programs for school and other groups
- Public outreach and communication via telephone, email and social media
- The friendly and welcoming staff at the SRIC Interpretive Center provided educational materials and a place to warm up and learn about bald eagle ecology.
Overview of the 2021/2022 Season
The Interpretive Center has several positive attributes:
- The facility in Rockport is a great base for programming.
- There is a dedicated Board and strong volunteers who have served over many years.
- The group has a long history of solid relationships with a variety of partners.
COVID-19 presented challenges on multiple levels. The USFS no longer provided the Center with guides for the interpretive walks, so SRIC led the walks. SRIC modified its communication style during the outdoor walks to maintain social distancing. SRIC required masks indoors, and canceled the speaker series.
Lack of Bald Eagles:
Eagle numbers have been low the past few years. Fortunately, SRIC’s mission is not dependent upon the presence of large numbers of bald eagles. Since there were less bald eagles this year compared to previous years, SRIC decided to emphasize the unique geography, natural history and history of the Skagit watershed. The overarching theme was “connections” – the web of relationships that tie the upper Skagit River watershed to the bald eagles, forests, as well as the animals and humans that live nearby. As eagle numbers decline, SRIC’s mission to promote stewardship of the Skagit River becomes even more important.
November 20th volunteer training:
Nine volunteers attended SRIC’s training on November 20th. The training started with introductions and then split into two groups- those interested in leading naturalist walks and those interested in helping inside the Center. Three walking tour trainees were recruited from Western Washington University’s College of The Environment (formerly known as Huxley College of the Environment). Three other walking trainees were from the local area.
SRIC decided that outdoor walking tours would be the best avenue to safely interact with and educate the public this year due to Covid-19. Education Coordinator, Joe Ordonez, set up a training program for volunteer walking guides and prepared training materials for them.
SRIC offered 2-hour nature walks each Saturday and Sunday. Walks departed at 11:00am and 1:30pm. This schedule allowed SRIC to interface with both morning and afternoon visitors. As the season progressed, visitor numbers and size of groups grew considerably larger. January brought a substantial increase in the number of visitors. By then, SRIC had a strong team of well-trained volunteer guides who comfortably led high-quality educational nature walks from the Center.
SRIC provided programs for three homeschool groups this year. Past experience had led SRIC to believe that most of the younger students would prefer to spend the majority of their visit indoors. SRIC placed volunteer staff in the Center ready to provide indoor education experiences. Surprisingly, the vast majority of students and their parents participated in the nature walk.
After the tour, some members of the groups entered the Center to enjoy the warmth and welcoming atmosphere.
In year’s past, SRIC worked directly with nearby school districts to serve as a destination for educational field trips. This year, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, no school groups inquired about SRIC services.
SRIC provided a private walking tour for the Club Alpo Italiano Pacific Northwest Subsection of Pisa. This is the only section of the Italian Alpine Club based outside of Italy!
SRIC also provided detailed information on bald eagle photography for the East Side Seattle Audubon Society Bird Photography Group.
SRIC provided a late season walking tour (February 26th) for Cub Scout Pack 428 from Kirkland, WA
Communication and promotion:
SRIC enjoyed some free advertising by being featured on the front page of the Skagit Valley Herald the first week of December, just as the season began!
- Alex Aiken assisted our organization with our social media platforms. SRIC provided him with posts and information to update our Facebook Page and website (www.skagiteagle.org). Alex was very responsive and did an excellent job.
- SRIC advertised with the Facebook page Skagit Kids Insider. This proved to be an effective way to reach many families.
- SRIC set up a Tripadvisor account, received some great reviews and responded quickly to all reviews.
Other advertising venues included:
- Concrete Herald
- Adventures Northwest magazine
- Posters & pamphlets in all hotels in Skagit County and information centers
- Skagit Valley Herald in print and online
Phone calls and emails:
SRIC provides information about the Upper Skagit River to those requesting it. Phone calls and emails were checked regularly and messages were responded to in a timely manner.
Speaker Series and Photo Contest:
SRIC canceled the speaker series and photo contest this year due to Covid concerns and low eagle numbers.
Looking to the Future:
Interest in nature and the outdoors has grown. SRIC could expand by increasing the length of the visitation season.
The staff and Board of the Skagit River Interpretive Center wish to acknowledge and thank those who helped contribute to SRIC this season.
- City of Burlington
- Columbian Bank
- Don Smith
- Jim Stout
- Skagit County
- The public
- 5 B’s Bakery
- Adventures NW
- EarthArt International
- Burlington Chamber or Commerce
- Concrete Chamber of Commerce
- North Cascades Institute
- North Cascades National Park Complex
- Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Complex
- Skagit County Parks and Recreation
- Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group
- Skagit Watershed Council
- US Forest service
- WA State Parks
- WA Department of Fish And Wildlife
Board members: Dana Ledford, Ember LaBounty, Eric Spandi, Judy Hemenway, Leatha Sullivan
Walking Tour Guides: Patrick Holmes, Nika Lee, Jasmine Neubauer, Maryann Atkins, Dana Ledford, Joe Ordonez
Center Staff: Deborah Money, Martha Bonner
Guest Trainer: Terri Wilde