Eager families, over thirty individuals, gathered Sunday, May 29 at the Brigg Lake trailhead off Roche Harbor Road.
Organized by the San Juan Island Trails Committee, the hike, led by local teens Milo, Lucy and Ava Martin, took the hikers to Picnic Rock at Brigg Lake. San Juan Island National Historical Park Superintendent Elexis Fredy spoke briefly about how she became involved in park service and her experiences as a woman superintendent.
“In high school, we moved [from California] to Florida,” she said. At that time there was a lot of development and diverse ecosystems were quickly being turned into golf courses. “I wanted to do something.”
Her drive to do something to protect wild areas led her toward the National Parks.
“It’s hard to believe someone would tell someone they couldn’t be something because they are a woman,” Fredy said, especially in this day and age. While this did not happen to Fredy, a male authority figure did tell Theresa Simendinger, who is with the San Juan Island Trails Committee, that she couldn’t be a park ranger.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Fredy acknowledged. “ I have worked twice as hard as my male counterparts.”
That being said, Fredy also mentioned how many truly inspiring mentors she had over the years, both men and women.
“I have had male mentors who have been very encouraging and supportive, and women who have really been through a lot,” Fredy said, while bald eagles flew overhead. Fredy added that mentors do not find the mentee, the mentee must seek out mentors and ask for what they need.
During the question and answer session, foxes were brought up. Fredy noted this year has been a particularly difficult one, and that there will need to be some regrouping to figure out how to do better next year.
Over the last five years, Fredy added, recreational visitors to the park have doubled to well over half a million last year. San Juan County has been working on a Tourism Sustainability Management Plan in response to the number of people coming to the islands.
However, tourists are only one area of concern. American Camp has experienced a series of vandalism, which caused staff to focus on repairs which delayed priority projects. The perpetrators were local, Fredy said. Park employees know this because the individuals were caught on camera. Working with the county council and engaging the schools, as well as the community at large to ensure islanders are all on the same page in regards to wildlife and their habitat could help.
“What we need is the funding,” Fredy said with a sigh.
After lunch, the Martin teens led the hikers around the lake. The family day continued after the Briggs Lake expedition, however. The Friday Harbor Film Festival provided three short documentaries; “When Goats Fly,” “Grizzlies of the Sea,” and “Cascade Crossroads” that were played at the San Juan Island Grange later that afternoon.