Opinion

Low-tide celebration is a chance to learn about our shorelines

Summer has officially arrived, and along with Fourth of July barbecues and family vacations, it is time for the annual celebration of our shore at Point Robinson.

The Low Tide Celebration is a chance for us to connect with our oft-overlooked shorelines, teach our children about the importance of ecological relationships and learn about interesting native creatures that live in the intertidal zone. Whether you are a day-tripper to the beaches or a waterfront homeowner, a parent, or simply strive for environmental-consciousness, you have reason to celebrate the unique natural riches that surround us on Vashon’s shores.

The ocean conservation movement has been tremendously successful in raising awareness of ocean habitat, thanks to dedicated activists and amazing documentaries.

In this region, we are generally more aware of water ecology issues than the average American, and a lot of our attention is focused on pollutants in Puget Sound and the health of the salmon, bivalves and other tasty species. But outside of those particular interests, we tend to overlook the shoreline and its inhabitants, vital contributors to Sound and ocean health.

Vashon’s shorelines provide a unique opportunity for learning about the complexity of the intertidal zone and its role in the Sound’s health, apart from the obvious one of being an island. We boast the most undeveloped shoreline in the state’s most populated county. Learning about the critters and ecology of the shoreline gives us an appreciation of the complex relationships of all living things, not only with each other, but also with the non-living parameters (water flow, the nitrogen cycle, erosion, etc.) that help to determine the quality of ecosystems.

The boundary where Puget Sound meets land is diverse biologically; it brings together species from both environments, supports characters unique to the habitat and produces food for yet other species. Intertidal inhabitants seem almost otherworldly to us, but by understanding their respective stories, we learn to appreciate what each has to offer and find respect for their differences. For example, one’s opinion of the lowly barnacle is surely raised when it is learned that it glues itself to rocks using one of the strongest adhesives on the planet, a cement-like protein that researchers have been trying to understand for years.

Most Islanders are aware of the many benefits to physical and mental health of a childhood spent close to nature. Some have transplanted from the city for exactly this reason. And while some can take advantage of Vashon’s nationally recognized nature-based educational programs, the rest of us can take the opportunity to teach our children conscientiousness about the natural world through free public events such as the Low Tide Celebration. How many Vashon parents who take their children to the beach know how to teach them “best beach behavior” and why they should not stomp their way through a bed of eelgrass?

The Low Tide Celebration is a chance to not only educate the next generation of conservationists, but to celebrate our Island’s great treasury of shorelines and beaches. Learning more about the complex beauty of the shoreline is important not only for parents and their children, but for anyone who has enjoyed a day on the beach, a kayak trip along the shore, a swim in the Sound or the dive of an osprey.

No matter your religious affiliation or lack thereof, knowledge of the natural world nourishes us in a deeply spiritual way that is virtually unmatched by human endeavors.

 

— Adria Magrath, a Vashon Beach Naturalist, is also a biologist, teacher and nature photographer.

 

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