Situated inside the historic Admiralty Head Lighthouse on Whidbey Island is the WSU Island County Extension office. Although small in comparison to other extensions, the center prides itself on its engaging programs that encourage environmental preservation among county residents.
“We place a huge investment in the place we live, and that investment pays off in that we preserve the county for future generations,” said Don Meehan, extension director, Island County Extension.
While Meehan is the only resident faculty member at the center, there are approximately 700 volunteers participating in the center’s many programs.
For example, the Beach Watchers program exchanges 100 hours of expert training from top instructors in geology, the beaches, environmental processes, marine life and other topics for 100 volunteer hours of scientific surveys, exploring the beaches, talking to students and the public, and much more. These volunteers have contributed 18,000 hours this year alone, Meehan said.
“These volunteers are vital to preserving the environment and natural habitats of Island County,” Meehan said. Their efforts help to increase the economic value of the area by attracting more tourists, and creating more jobs for the community.
Another way the community benefits from the center is through agriculture-based education that encourages appreciation of the land. The center also spends a fair amount of time helping farmers with zoning issues and working to create county farming laws that focus on preserving what farming is left in Island County.
Community volunteers are not the only thing important to the future of Island County. Meehan said students looking to gain experience in environmental research and working with youth 4-H programs also are strongly encouraged to volunteer, as there are no WSU students currently involved with the center.
For more information on the Island County Extension, or volunteer opportunities, contact Meehan at 360-679-7327 or visit the website at http://www.island.wsu.edu.