Deception Pass State Park has had a real strange year in 2020, much like many other parks in the system. Think back prior to COVID-19, the Deception Pass Park Foundation was ready to kick off their first fun run in the park, quickly followed by its first fishing derby. The fun run had already sold out with 300 participants and the fishing derby was on pace to do the same. Quickly, these events were canceled. The next big event in the early planning stages, was “Shakespeare in the Park” but this has been cancelled. Deception Pass State Park was all set to kick-off its second year of a full-time park store, which was intended to fund park related projects. The anticipated opening date was April 1 with a closing date of September 30. By the time April 1 came about, the park lost all its funding for merchandise, staff, and were restricted from doing any in-store sales.
In stepped the Deception Pass Park Foundation; transitioning to take over all park store sales and operations with very little notice. With the help of Carol Bromel, a plan was quickly put together that involved merchandise ordering, purchasing, delivery, COVID plans, curbside sales, staffing, and the re-configuration of the store. Additionally, the store was re-branded and is now called “The Lake Store.” For those of you that do not know the location, it is located at the edge of Cranberry Lake, between the Lower Loop and Forest Loop of the Cranberry Lake Campground. This venture has proven to be a fantastic fundraiser for the foundation, which has the potential of creating many new opportunities in the park. The Lake Store officially opened on June 26, 2020 and will close sometime after Labor Day. The store has two great employees in Sara and Johnathon and has many great volunteers to assist.
The re-painting of the Deception Pass Bridge and Canoe Pass Bridge were equally halted. This will likely extend the completion date that was originally scheduled for October 31, 2020. This has impacted the park in many ways, as I am certain many visitors and locals have noticed the increased congestion around the bridge, most notably the parking along the highway. This will likely get worse as the painting transitions from the Canoe Pass side to the Deception Pass side and much of the parking lot on the south side of the bridge is removed. I receive frequent questions and comments about this parking and its legality. It is important to know that the park does not have ownership on any of the paved shoulders around Deception Pass. Additionally, this is not a limited access highway and is not posted no parking, so generally speaking it is not illegal to park on the shoulder of the highway. It becomes illegal if vehicles are parked in the lane of travel or the door is opened that causes a disruption to traffic.
As part of the bridge project, the Interpretive Specialist at Deception Pass is funded to assist with bridge education and public information about the bridge. As the bridge construction ends, the funding for this position will end as well. This means the park must find a transition in funding that will allow the park to retain the Interpretive Specialist. We are very fortunate in this park, as we have a highly revered, respected, and skilled Interpretive Specialist in Joy Kacoroski. She has focused on creating partnerships with local schools, and these partnerships allow us to connect children and families to nature. Joy has added additional programing that focuses on the Junior Ranger program which fosters the principle of “Play, Learn, and Protect.” She has created a park specific Junior Ranger book and badge, expanded the environmental education program within the park, improved interpretive panels, has improved the Rosario Tidepools program, and has focused much of the park curriculum to comply with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards).
The park and the Deception Pass Park Foundation (DPFF) are seeking other options for funding this position in the future. In part, fundraising through DPPF will be one option, the park store another, and developing new partnerships as the third component. One of these partnerships will be through the Recreation and Conservation Office as we seek a grant under the No Child Left Inside program. Under this partnership, we are seeking to develop a program that will transition young children (3-5-year-old) into elementary and then 5th graders out of elementary into middle school. These programs are very early in their development but will be designed in a way that will assist families during this critical time through early morning and after school programs. We have already started to create a new partnership with the Fidalgo Nature School that will hopefully help drive some of these programs. We are looking for other natural partners that can assist with this type of program and funding.
The last major transition that is occurring this year is within the Deception Pass Park Foundation. We currently have a vacancy in the Vice-president position and are actively seeking someone with a genuine interest and desire to help transform some of our programming and volunteerism in the park. In September, the current President, Lori Maul, will also be stepping down. She has been a board member for the last two years and has worked hard at changing some of the priorities, working behind-the-scenes in administration development, and stabilizing the board. We are actively seeking a President that has a true love for the park, is highly motivated, and is interested in environmental education and stewardship.
In closing, the staff at Deception Pass State Park are extremely grateful for all the volunteers and stewards we have had over the year. The current staffing at Deception Pass is as low as it has been over the past three years with five vacant positions. In addition, due to COVID-19, we can only have two camp hosts instead of the seven we typically have. The staff are cleaning the 37 bathrooms twice a day and inspecting the bathrooms numerous other times throughout the day. This is likely how park operations will continue through the 2021 calendar year. We are hopeful that we can start up the full volunteer program by 2021 so community members can assist the park at ensuring we maintain the most iconic park in the state park system.