Point Robinson included on Whale Trail

Most Islanders know that when the South Sound’s resident orca pods cavort near Vashon, Point Robinson is the place to be. Now, the easternmost tip of Maury Island is receiving regional recognition as a spot for whale and wildlife viewing.

The Whale Trail, a network of whale and wildlife viewing sites along the Puget Sound and Washington coast that recently celebrated its official opening, includes Point Robinson as one of its 20 sites. The trail, which spans from Vancouver, B.C., to Point Defiance, also includes the entire Washington state ferry system.

Donna Sandstrom, executive director of the Whale Trail, said Point Robinson is not only the best spot on the Island to watch whales, it’s one of the best in the entire Puget Sound.

“Vashon people are lucky because the whales often come close to shore there, and it’s a beautiful spot in its own right,” she said. “There’s not a better experience.”

The Whale Trail, headed by Sandstrom, was devel-oped and implemented by a number of area organizations, including the Wash-ington Department of Fish

and Wildlife, NOAA Fish-eries, the Seattle Aquarium and People For Puget Sound.

“Everyone said they’d be interested in supporting it if I organized it,” she said.

Sandstrom and her team of partners hope the Whale Trail will not only point locals and visitors to great wildlife viewing sites, but encourage stewardship of the Puget Sound during a time when many of the marine mammals that make their homes in the Sound, including the orca, are imperiled.

Stress from boat traffic, including those used for whale watching, is one factor contributing to the orcas’ decline in numbers, Sandstrom said.

“The heavy whale watching is having an impact on the whales. … We promote land-based whale watching as an alternative,” Sandstrom said, adding that NOAA Fisheries even mentions the Whale Trail in its Orca Recovery Plan.

Ann Stateler, director of the Vashon Hydrophone Project, said she is glad to see a project that encourages land-based whale watching and wasn’t surprised that Point Robinson was chosen as to be a site along the Whale Trail.

“In the wintertime Point Robinson is a great place to see killer whales from the shore … and all different species of marine mammals,” she said, mentioning that harbor seals, sea lions and even grey whales and humpback whales can be spotted from the point.

Interpretive signs will be installed at many Whale Trail sites, though it has yet to be determined whether any will be come to Point Robinson. Sandstrom said the signs are nice because they can educate the public even when whales aren’t present.

However, she hopes to tailor the signs to each community’s needs and preferences, whether that means installing specialized signage or simply not having signage at all at some sites.

“We have started discussions but nothing has been decided about Point Robinson,” Standstrom said. “We look forward to working with the Park District to finalize the plans.”

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