A credo of Waterkeepers is “clean water for all,” but the reality is it’s hard to meet “all” sometimes. In any given community, barriers exist that must be overcome to conduct almost any small part of a Waterkeeper’s job. Education and outreach materials often don’t exist in all of the languages spoken in a community. It’s hard for people with nontraditional 9-5 jobs or a lack of evening childcare to attend evening meetings and events when most of said meetings and events are held. Sometimes just getting to a particular part of the watershed to volunteer or even just experience the watershed is a barrier. These are challenges that must be thought through, intentionally, to truly meet that credo of clean water for all. At Humboldt Baykeeper, overcoming this challenge has propelled their Bay Tours Program.
As part of this program, Humboldt Baykeeper offers kayak and motorboat tours of Humboldt Bay and Elk River to a variety of community groups from May to October, with an emphasis on connecting people to Humboldt Bay who would otherwise not be able to experience being out on the water.
“One of the greatest rewards of implementing this program is being able to provide an experience of a lifetime for many people who have never experienced Humboldt Bay from the water.”
Bay Tours Coordinator Jasmin Segura, who Humboldt Baykeeper Jennifer Kalt says has a “knack for developing relationships with community groups,” has grown the program exponentially over her time with the organization, which is just over five years.
In 2019, Baykeeper led eight community group tours with a wide variety of partners, including English Express, a nonprofit English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) school; Camp Cooper, the City of Eureka’s summer day camp for youth; The Studio & Canvas + Clay, an art program for adults with varying abilities; Gaining Ground and Butler Valley, residential and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities; the Humboldt County Library Summer Reading Program; the Community Access Program for Eureka; and Serenity Inn, a transitional housing facility in Eureka.
“Jasmin amazes me every year by finding new community groups who work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds,” said Kalt. “Next year’s (2020’s) new group works with 16-26-year-old foster youth, helping them make the transition to adult life.”
Baykeeper started this work with a California Coastal Conservancy grant (obtained before Kalt took over the organization) that involved working with Spanish-speaking residents. “I suspect a lot of other Waterkeepers and funders want to encourage [this] but don’t know where to start,” Kalt said. “The short version is this,” Kalt goes on. “Whatever group you are trying to reach, don’t just invite them to your events — go to their events!”
A lot of Baykeeper and Segura’s success involves connections with people at the various community groups, but also having the heart and the desire to go out and find those groups and try to figure out what will work. “Sometimes things don’t work out,” said Kalt, “so we have some lessons learned, too.”
Although many tours focus on appreciating the beauty and importance of Humboldt Bay, these aren’t just leisure tours. Since 2014, Baykeeper has organized two volunteer kayak-based trash cleanups every year on Earth Day and Coastal Cleanup Day in partnership with the Wiyot Tribe and two oyster companies (Coast Seafoods and Hog Island). Last September, nearly 30 volunteers removed hundreds of pounds of trash from Tuluwat Island, including tires and other debris that wash up with high tides or fall from the Samoa Bridge.
“One of the greatest rewards of implementing this program is being able to provide an experience of a lifetime for many people who have never experienced Humboldt Bay from the water,” said Kalt. “Developing relationships with community groups has built trust, encouraging people to join tours in a safe environment that may not exist for them at public tours and events.”
Feature image: The Humboldt County Public Library’s 2019 Summer Reading Tour offered an end-of-summer tour of Humboldt Bay aboard the historic H/V Madaket for participants and their families. Photo by Jasmin Segura, Bay Tours Coordinator, Humboldt Baykeeper.