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Low tide celebration offers a window into another world

Beach-goers explore an eelgrass bed at Point Robinson at last year’s Low Tide Celebration. This year’s gathering will take place Saturday. - Ray Pfortner Photo
Beach-goers explore an eelgrass bed at Point Robinson at last year’s Low Tide Celebration. This year’s gathering will take place Saturday.
— image credit: Ray Pfortner Photo

This weekend Point Robinson will teem with life, not only because one of the lowest tides of summer will reveal a multitude of sea creatures, but also because of the many visitors expected to turn out for what organizers believe will be the most popular Low Tide Celebration to date.

The sixth annual Low Tide Celebration, planned for this Saturday, will fall for the first time on Fourth of July weekend. Susan McCabe, the Vashon Park District’s program coordinator, said the event is expected to draw at least 500 people.

“It’s been growing in popularity each year … and we’re expecting an even larger crowd because it’s on the Fourth of July weekend,” she said.

McCabe added that the event has already been written up in Seattle and Tacoma publications as a low-cost and fun activity for the holiday weekend. 

The celebration will once again be held at Point Robinson — where organizers say beach-goers can explore two dramatically different shoreline habitats. The sandy point holds large tide pools where colorful sea stars, anemones and tube worms make their homes, while at the cobble beach to the north, hermit crabs hide under rocks, moon snails peek above the surface and clams comically squirt water into the air.

Special signs will mark the locations of interesting animals, and the Vashon Beach Naturalists will be on hand to identify creatures and tell about their lives.

Erin Durrett, a leader of the Vashon Beach Naturalists program, said most Islanders are familiar with Point Robinson, but many haven’t experienced the beach during extreme low tides, when another world is revealed.

“People are truly amazed when they find out how diverse the life is and how to look for it,” she said.

The Vashon Beach Naturalists volunteered at the Low Tide Celebration for the first time last year. The group formed in part to help educate visitors at the celebration, replacing the Seattle Aquarium volunteers who normally came out for the event. 

“(The event) was so successful that we didn’t want to keep relying on the Seattle Aquarium to provide  volunteers every year,” said Daoud Miller, another leader of the Vashon Beach Naturalists. “Plus we wanted to have more Vashon people who have an understanding of the Island.” 

Miller said most visitors’ favorite part of the Low Tide Celebration is learning about the creatures and their “strange and bizarre” habits from the volunteer naturalists. Clad in bright yellow vests, the naturalists will be stationed on the beach, eager to tell about how a jellyfish reproduces, how starfish eat or how anemones fight with one another.

“You can see a bunch of weird-looking creatures and learn fascinating stories about how these animals live,” Miller said.

The Vashon Beach Naturalists aren’t only out to entertain, though. They hope those who learn about the lives of the interesting but fragile creatures of the Puget Sound will feel a stronger connection to the beach.

“People come away with a much greater appreciation for what’s there and how rich the environment is,” Durrett said. “Our hope is what extends from that is a closer emotional tie to the beach and a desire to protect it.”

Miller said beach-goers can learn how to protect the beach while they are there by treating the animals with care as well as how to consider the health of the region’s marine life in their daily activities.

“The way you garden, … the way you wash your car, the way that you maintain your own septic treatment system — it all impacts the health of Puget Sound,” Miller said.

Junior Beach Naturalists from the Homestead Farm and Wilderness Learning Community will also be on hand this year talk with visitors and lead beach activities for children. 

“Children get to learn about the animals from their own point of view instead of from an adult point of view,” Miller said.

In addition, the Point Robinson Lighthouse will be open for tours, festival food will be for sale and several environmental organizations — such as the Vashon-Maury Audobon Society, Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust and the state Department of Natural Resources — will staff informational booths.

In what has become a well-loved tradition at the celebration, local Native Americans will row the Blue Heron, a traditional Salish canoe, across Puget Sound from Federal Way to Point Robinson, likely sometime before noon.

Following the Blue Heron’s arrival, Odin Lonning, a celebrated Native American wood artist, will lead a beach walk where he will describe traditional Native American uses of shellfish and other shoreline resources.

 

The Low Tide Celebration will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Point Robinson. Low tide is expected at about noon. The lower parking lot at Point Robinson will be closed to visitors during the celebration, but a complimentary shuttle bus will run every 15 minutes along Luana Beach Road and Point Robinson Road.

 

 

 

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