Parks’ volunteers help keep the land beautiful

Mike Higgins, in the maroon vest, working on a muddy trail turnpike. - Contributed photo
Mike Higgins, in the maroon vest, working on a muddy trail turnpike.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Many people visit county parks on Lopez to enjoy the beaches, camp, have a barbecue with friends and family, or hike on the trails.

Fewer people regularly spend their free time improving the parks through volunteer service. However, two Lopez residents stand out as volunteers extraordinaire: Carl Jones and Mike Higgins.

If you have visited Agate Beach County Park on the south end of Lopez, you may have seen Carl riding his bicycle to or from the site, mowing, pulling invasive weeds, or cleaning the renowned “Flower House” – so clean, colorful and well-maintained that it defies the usual term “outhouse.”

Volunteer Linda Noreen says, “I often hear visitors call out to friends, ‘Come take a look and take a picture [of the Flower House].’”

Carl originally got involved with the parks as a member of the San Juan County Parks Board.

Now he says, “I prefer to do physical work and see what I accomplished. I have fun and really enjoy the work.”

He has been taking care of Agate for more than four years now, and he enjoys the positive feedback and the feeling of satisfaction that comes with doing his part to beautify the park.  Carl is quick to point out that there is a group of neighbors who look after the park, including Linda, who enjoys chatting with people as she picks up litter on the beach.

Carl says, “There is a feeling that Agate is a neighborhood park, so we all do our part to keep it beautiful.”

Mike has just started volunteering at Odlin Park, but he has a long relationship with Odlin.

Mike recalls,“My first trip to Lopez began at Odlin Park. I didn’t own a car, and I walked to Odlin from the ferry landing without much effort. What a great park. Now I enjoy giving back.”

In the past two months, Mike has assisted with three important projects at the park. He assisted with mixing and pouring concrete to install and stabilize a gate across the new group site area; he helped to put two barbecue grills up near the picnic shelter; and he participated in a three day trails workshop and assisted in building and installing a trail turnpike – a raised section of trail that helps hikers cross wet areas – along with 11 other volunteers.

Mike enjoys the sense of community that has grown around the park – multi-generational camping, baseball games, and community gatherings, and he looks forward to continuing his volunteer work in the coming years.

San Juan County Parks is currently looking to put together a team of dedicated volunteers on Lopez to help with various projects throughout the year.  Volunteers could become stewards at one of the county day parks such as Shark Reef, Blackie Brady Beach or Otis Perkins, or they could volunteer at Odlin Park.

Sara Waugh, assistant park manager at Odlin, says, “The work of volunteers is beneficial to the parks, but volunteers also gain experience, have fun, and see the positive results of stewardship to our public lands. All skill levels are welcome!  And no one is required to clean any toilets.”

So join Carl and Mike, and if you would like to become part of the SJI County Parks-Lopez volunteer team,  email and put “Volunteer” in the subject line.


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