Devotion to Place
OUR 2017 VOLUNTEERS OF THE YEAR ARE REAL PEACHES
On a gray March morning, Barbara and Randy Schnabel launch into a familiar routine. They pull on their warm hooded parkas, leather gloves, and “Alaskan sneakers” (high rubber boots). Barbara checks her coat pocket to make sure she has a plastic bag for trash, and Randy grabs his bright-orange weed wrench. In spitting rain they set out for Peach Preserve, a five-minute walk from their home on Guemes Island.
Once there, they go to work. …Read more
Randy zeroes in on emerging flora non grata like Scotch broom and spurge laurel (or Daphne). He uproots the invaders with his digging knife or weed wrench. Barbara patrols the nearly half-mile- long beach and fills her bag with plastic coffee lids, empty shotgun shells, and other litter (“I even found a shoe once,” she says). Dismantling driftwood structures gives her special satisfaction, as she believes “it’s better when people leave only footprints.”
Since the Preservation Trust purchased this 64-acre preserve in 2000, Barbara and Randy have adopted it, caring for its beach, marsh, and adjacent woodland as if it were their own back yard. “In all seasons, in all weather, they are out patrolling this small yet diverse property on the south shore of Guemes Island,” says Stewardship Manager Kathleen Foley. “They are close observers of the world around them and regularly report on their observations—everything from birdsong and nesting activity, to the people they meet enjoying the preserve, and sometimes, on the abuses this much-loved little preserve receives.
“No one deserves our Volunteer of the Year award more than the Schnabels,” she adds. “They’ve been great volunteer stewards for almost 20 years.”
Like many resident retirees, the Schnabels moved to the islands by degrees. “My family has been coming here since before I was born,” Barbara says. As a child growing up in Seattle, she spent countless weekends and holidays on Guemes. She and Randy continued the tradition after they were married. When they first “adopted” Peach Preserve as SJPT land stewards, they were both teachers in Seattle-area schools and did their monitoring duties on weekends. Two years ago, they sold their home in Seattle and moved full-time into a house they built on property just a stone’s throw from Barbara’s parents’ old place. They make their rounds of Peach Preserve about twice a week.
“Walking through the preserve is always restorative,” Barbara says. For Randy, who grew up on a ranch in California, the work has a practical benefit. “I always had plenty of work to do and imbibed a family bias against exercise for its own sake,” he says. “But now that I’m a sedentary retiree, having invasive weeds so handy gives me an excuse to get exercise while doing something useful.”
The Schnabels are among about 30 active SJPT Land Stewards who have adopted a preserve. “It’s volunteers like them who make the work of the Trust possible,” says Stewardship Director Dean Dougherty. Currently, we are looking for more Land Stewards to adopt one of these preserves: Wildwood, Beaverton Marsh, and Eureka on San Juan Island; and Storey on Shaw. If you are interested, please visit sjpt.org/volunteer to learn more.