Environmental education group seeks memories from residents of the Strait

PORT ANGELES — From Cape Flattery to Point Wilson, the Strait of Juan de Fuca holds many stories, and one group wants to gather those into an educational video.

“We are casting a net to find people with stories to tell,” videographer Al Bergstein said.

“Voices of the Strait” is a project funded by Econet, an environmental education component of the Puget Sound Partnership, based in Olympia.

The project aims to collect and videotape candid stories from people who have memories of living and working in the watershed of the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the last 75 years.

“There are a lot of memories out there,” Bergstein said. “We would like to go back as far as we can get. If we can get stories from the ’20s on, that’s what we’re hoping to do.

“The goal is to help people understand what happened and what might be recovered and the importance of the Strait.”

He said it’s common knowledge that the large fisheries of the past were “vastly bigger” than they are now but that the video is not advocating policy changes or directions.

“It’s not a political statement,” he said. “It’s to give people a better understanding of where we were and where we might get back to.

“I think all sides of the political spectrum want the fish back.”

While Bergstein and his company, Mountainstone Productions, are in charge of the recording, the project is a joint venture with the Arthur D. Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles.

The center is handling the $10,000 grant from Puget Sound Partnership and taking names of people with stories to tell, with assistance from the Center for Excellence at Peninsula College. Students there will assist with production.

Production is expected to begin in March, with the finished 10-minute video available online at www.olypen.com/feirolab, beginning in June.

The marine center will also show the video as part of its display for visitors.

Raw footage will be available for use by other members of the Puget Sound Partnership.

Although the call only went out recently, Bergstein said they have already started gathering stories.

There are stories of camping on the shores, of “hunting” geoducks and watching the fishing on the Strait change.

“One man who was raised on the Dungeness River witnessed a large fish kill in the 1950s that totally changed the river,” Bergstein said.

The project is seeking stories from everyone, with no restrictions.

They are also reaching out to a segment of the North Olympic Peninsula with the strongest ties to the Strait, the four native tribes.

“We are and will continue to reach out to the tribes,” Bergstein said. “We have no preconceived notions of the participants.”

Marine center board member Betsy Wharton is the point person for the project.

“I’m very happy to see something like this get started,” she said. “I think there are a lot of elders who have experiences of interest.

Wharton noted that while there may not be hard scientific data that reaches back 75 years, there are memories that supply their own kind of data.

“It’s valuable to archive and retain that collective memory,” she said. “The purpose of the project is twofold, to archive and hold these experiences, and to create short videos of them.”

In addition to fish tales, Wharton hopes to gather stories that cover the spectrum of marine life on the Strait, from clams and crabs to fish and birds.

There is no set deadline for taking part in the project.

To submit a story idea, contact the Feiro Marine Life Center by phone at 360-417-6254 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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Features Editor Marcie Miller can be reached at 360-417-3550 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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