Watershed Watcher Spotlight: Mitchell Family
Gary & Bette Mitchell with their grandsons Mitchell & Bennett Burke at Birch Bay State Park
Gary and Bette Mitchell know how to make stewardship fun! As Watershed Watchers, they volunteer to pick up trash in their neighborhood and invite their grandsons, Bennett & Mitchell Burke, to join in their volunteer activities. When their grandkids help out, they keep it enjoyable by bringing along a trash grabber and make the cleanup into an adventure game.
However, trash pickup is not only fun and games for the Mitchells. The Mitchells believe it is essential to care for their community. Picking up trash is one way they can do that.
“Times are tough for all of us, and a simple act of helping others and your community should be a natural course of action for us all. We are hoping to impart that spirit to our grandkids.” –Bette Mitchell
Having lived in Maple Falls for many years, they dreamed of retiring to Birch Bay. Three years ago that dream became a reality. Aware of the damage caused by trash, they wanted to help keep the Birch Bay watershed beautiful and healthy, so they joined the Watershed Watchers.
“We [are] thrilled to play a small part in helping to protect our waterways, it is after all a true luxury to be blessed with water to protect. I have family that are in parts of the country where water is so precious it is rationed, so I take no small pleasure in living where we do and being able to have fresh clean water!” – Gary Mitchell
You can join the Mitchell family in caring for the Birch Bay community by joining the volunteer program. The Whatcom County Watershed Watchers Program provides concerned residents and environmental stewards with opportunities to improve water quality in your community by:
“Where we live, we have a view of two countries, Mount Baker in its glory, and a bay which changes flavor each day. At night we get to see the lights from the industrial complexes and know that there are others out there working hard to keep us in energy…. We hope that the area, as it develops, retains its small community atmosphere and people truly appreciate the gem that Birch Bay is and all it has to offer. It can decline and go downhill quickly, or it can retain its charm and character with a small effort from those of us who call the area home, as well as those who visit from close and afar.” –Bette Mitchell
Briana and Joe Peck - Watershed Watcher Volunteer Spotlight
Briana and Joe Peck have lived in Whatcom County for 14 years and in the Salish Breeze neighborhood since 2015. They love their wild neighbors such as herons, gulls, eagles and harbor seals, just to name a few. They do their part to protect those neighbors by reporting pollution and cleaning up trash along beaches and roadways as Watershed Watchers.
“We love it here, every time I take a walk I am grateful.” - Briana Peck
"We love the eagles and herons in our back yard, we bring a trash bag wherever we go!" - Joe Peck
Hiller Family – Watershed Watcher Volunteer Spotlight
Deb and Dave Hiller fell in love over beach trash. To some, this might not sound romantic, but when you’re passionate about the place you live and find shared values in protecting that place, it makes for a great love story.
Dave is a self-proclaimed “litter despiser” and Deb is a “beach baby.” Together they are making Whatcom County a better place to live by volunteering. The Hillers have been married for 15 years and have spent the last 10 years in Birch Bay. “We rooted ourselves in the community right away; Dave joined the Birch Bay Chamber Board and served as the president for two years,” says Deb.
They jumped at the opportunity to become Watershed Watchers and have been actively involved since the very first volunteer training event in 2017. They also participate in Run with the Chums almost every year! “You really need passion; we need people who care. I don’t go anywhere without a garbage bag in my pocket,” says Deb.
The Watershed Watchers program was developed to increase community engagement with water quality issues and provide an avenue for reporting problems. The program provides concerned citizens and environmental stewards with opportunities to reduce stormwater impacts, clean up their community, and protect water quality in the Birch Bay and Terrell Creek watersheds.
There are two main ways to volunteer as a Watershed Watcher:
• Report stormwater problems associated with drainage, pollution, erosion, infrastructure, maintenance needs, and illegal dumping.
• Adopt-a-Block (or beach!) to help keep your community free of trash and debris.
“I remember attending a volunteer meeting and discussing how everything that lands on the ground within a certain radius of the ocean goes straight into the ocean. This made me consider many things differently, even car washing,” says Deb.
Deb is talking about Stormwater. Stormwater is rain or snow that falls on our roads, parking lots and roof tops. It picks up and carries harmful bacteria from pet waste, oils, dirt and metals on its way to the nearest storm drain, creek, lake or Bay.
Deb loves to inspire the next generation of Watershed Watchers too. “We have actually been training our grandson to pick up litter. When we walk over to the berm and beach we also take a bag to put garbage in. He actually enjoys it.”
"Granny! I found some garbage," says Hache, their 7-year-old grandson, as he climbs on the driftwood in front of the newly-established Birch Bay berm.
The Hillers are ecstatic about the berm project and the positive impacts they are already seeing on the beach. “We are seeing otters, the ocean is acting the way it should be acting, the heron are more prevalent and more eagles too. The berm is fantastic for Birch Bay,” noted Dave.
If you are interested in joining the Hillers as Birch Bay Watershed Watchers, Dave offered this motivation for signing up: “It’s an aesthetics issue, it’s a sound business decision for your community, it improves the health of wildlife, and improves your own health by getting outside and being active. And best of all, it’s a great first date idea!”
Want to learn more about BBWARM and Watershed Watchers? Visit https://www.bbwarm.whatcomcounty.org/