In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 5:02 PM on Wednesday, March 21, 2012


By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Jenny Medley, left, explains some of the volunteer opportunities at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies' Peterson Bay Field Station at the CACS voluneer meet and greet on Tuesday.

Looking to help out your community? Do you love the outdoors and want to do good while enjoying the beauty of nature? On Tuesday earlier this week, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies held a volunteer meet and greet to invite people to help out and sign up for upcoming opportunities.

CACS isn't the only organization offering a chance to give visitors a great time this spring and summer. Now that spring has come, start thinking ahead to warm days and sunshine with activities that can get you outside and even across Kachemak Bay.

It's not just CACS that needs help. Pratt Museum, the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, the Homer Chamber of Commerce and the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival all are looking for people to help (Visit Our volunteer listings page for more information).

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, CACS has programs at the Carl E. Wynn Nature Center on Skyline Drive, at its headquarters on Lake Street, at the Peterson Bay Field Station across the bay and at its yurt at the Homer Harbor. Before summer activity gets going, and as the weather gets better, CACS runs educational programs for visiting students from around Alaska and as far away as North Pole. Its spring programs include Beluga wetlands tours and oceanography tours on the bay.

"Our volunteers have been helping us along to do our spring programs," said CACS director Beth Trowbridge.

Volunteer Martha Briscoe, a retired environmental educator from Massachusetts, has been doing both educational programs.

"My favorite of all of them is oceanography," Briscoe said. "I get out on the bay — I don't have a boat. I get to teach kids."

Briscoe said she works about 10 hours a week in the winter volunteering and maybe up to 30 in the spring and summer. As she talked to Trowbridge and checked out sign-up sheets, Briscoe coordinated her schedule with other organizations. She also helps out at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center in the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve's Discovery Labs and in the marine room at the Pratt Museum.

"It keeps me out of trouble," she said.

The Pratt holds its own volunteer orientations, one April 17 and another May 8. At the museum, volunteers can help out as docents or, like Briscoe, provide general help in the marine room. Jennie Engebretsen, visitor services manager at the Pratt, said the museum is looking for a few good homesteaders — someone to run the Harrington Cabin that shows what life was like for early Homer homesteaders.

One big project coming up at the Pratt is helping to articulate a gray whale skeleton recovered after the whale washed up dead in Halibut Cove in 1999.

CACS also has a big project coming up this summer, the Washed Ashore art project, where visiting artist Angela Pozzi of Bandon, Ore., will supervise the creation of art made out of marine debris — every pound collected in Kachemak Bay over the next year.

The upcoming 20th annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival also is looking for a few good peepers. Bird lovers can help with all sorts of activities, from staffing viewing stations to being spotting scope sherpas during guided tours.

"Birding skills are not required, and volunteering is a fantastic way to experience the festival behind the scenes and to meet new and interesting people," said festival coordinator Christina Whiting.

The Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, one of the sponsors of the festival, also needs help at its front desk before and during the festival from mid-April to late May, said Rebekah Jones, volunteer coordinator.

"Most people have no idea there's a wildlife refuge here," she said. "They're coming in to ask about Homer."

The visitor center also needs people to keep its outdoor garden plots in good shape through the summer.

For those not wanting to work outdoors, other organizations also opportunities closer to town. People with good knowledge of Homer can help out at the Homer Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center information desk. Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Homer Community Food Pantry and Hospice of Homer all can use some help.