WEEKEND REWIND: Conservationist Dick Goin honored posthumously with annual award at North Olympic Land Trust breakfast
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Tom Sanford, executive director of the North Olympic Land Trust, right, presents his organization's Out Standing in the Field Award to family members of the late Dick Goin, an advocate for river restoration, during the eighth annual Conservation Breakfast in Port Angeles on Friday. Accepting the award were, from left, grandson Kyle McCurdy, wife Marie Goin, daughter Cheryl McCurdy, granddaughters Katie Kelley and Amanda Knobel, along with great-grandsons Sam Kelley, 3, and Jack Kelley, 5.

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The legacy of conservationist Dick Goin was celebrated by members of the North Olympic Land Trust as a crowd of about 150 packed the upstairs ballroom of the Elks Naval Lodge.

They witnessed the posthumous bestowment of the land trust's 2016 Out Standing in the Field Award on Friday morning.

Goin, who died last April at the age of 83, received the award for his “decades of steadfast dedication to protecting quality fish habitat across the Olympic Peninsula,” North Olympic Land Trust Executive Director Tom Sanford said.

Marie Goin, Dick's wife of 64 years, accepted the award on his behalf at the land trust's eighth annual Conservation Breakfast.

“I'm extremely proud of that guy of mine, and I miss him tremendously,” she said.

Friend and mentor

Sam Brenkman, chief fisheries biologist for Olympic National Park, said his friend and mentor volunteered thousands of hours to advocate for rivers and salmon on the North Olympic Peninsula.

“I think Dick represented an all-too-rare combination of avid outdoorsman, deep thinker and ultimate conservationist who had a precise memory and a reverence for rivers and fish,” Brenkman told the crowd.

“Dick was among the strongest, most eloquent and most authoritative voices for better protecting rivers and salmon on the Olympic Peninsula, and he viewed the river as close to the perspective of a fish as any human could.”

Active fisherman

After moving from Iowa to Port Angeles during the Great Depression, Goin and his father fished for Elwha River salmon to feed the family, Brenkman said.

In the seven decades that followed, Goin “keenly observed, studied, fished and shared information on the rivers and the salmon,” Brenkman said.

“He quietly informed me a few years ago that he caught over 7,000 wild steelhead in his lifetime of fishing, which is job security for me, I guess,” Brenkman said.


Goin worked as a machinist at the former Rayonier mill in Port Angeles for 42 years, retiring as a foreman.

He was president of the Olympic Outdoor Sportsmen's Association, a member of the Western Pulp and Paper Workers, a technical adviser for a governor's salmon program and was nominated for Washington's Wild Salmon Hall of Fame.

Goin also was the keynote speaker at the first Elwha River Science Symposium in 2011, which “really kicked off and marked the beginning of the largest dam removal in American history,” Brenkman said.

Goin became active in efforts to restore Elwha River salmon runs in the 1980s.

The Elwha, his favorite river, now flows freely after the 2011-to-2013 removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams.

Goin kept detailed field notes as he fished the rivers and streams of the North Olympic Peninsula. He fished about 100 days a year.

Preserved diaries

The diaries, which are being preserved by Olympic National Park, represent a “rare chronicle of the Peninsula's historical conditions and changes over several decades,” Brenkman said.

Goin was known for his regular visits to the offices of local fisheries managers and Olympic National Park superintendents, Brenkman said.

“At times, he used polite profanity that was really quite poetic,” he said.

Brenkman played a 10-minute slideshow with audio of Goin speaking at a 1983 conference about wild fish runs of the Olympic Peninsula.

He also shared some of Goin's memorable quotes.

“It's very hard for me to convey to you how hard that river died,” Goin once said of the Elwha River, which was first dammed in 1913.

“I've seen the loss of nearly all the spawning in the lower river in my lifetime. People don't realize we're losing something that took 15,000 years to evolve.”

Reflecting on dam removal, Goin told Brenkman: “I'm just glad we've got a chance to correct it.”

Other awards

Dick and Marie Goin received the Clallam County Community Service Award in 2007 and the Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award from the Port Townsend Marine Science Center in September 2011.

“I think it was Dick's passion as a lifelong teacher that really was a major inspiration behind the land trust's StreamFest that began in 1999,” Brenkman said.

“I think his efforts, along with others here in this room, have led to numerous public education and outreach events throughout the 3,200 acres now conserved by the North Olympic Land Trust.”


Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 24. 2016 6:42PM
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