AmeriCorps service members Nathan Rees, left, and Anna Marchand will lead guided walks through Fort Worden State Park starting Saturday. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

AmeriCorps service members Nathan Rees, left, and Anna Marchand will lead guided walks through Fort Worden State Park starting Saturday. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

Guided tours of Fort Worden to start Saturday

Botany, gun batteries topic of walks

PORT TOWNSEND — Two AmeriCorps service members will begin leading guided educational walks at Fort Worden State Park on Saturday.

Nathan Rees, 24, and Anna Marchand, 23, are leading two free walks each on Saturday. Rees will talk about the history and use of the gun batteries at Fort Worden, while Marchand will tell of basic botany, identifying the 10 most common native plants of the park.

Saturday’s walks are limited to 10 people each. Social distancing and mask wearing will be followed, they said.

Rees’ walks near Artillery Hill are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Marchand’s walks are scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon and from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

People can register for Rees’ walk by emailing him at [email protected] People can register for Marchand’s walk by emailing her at [email protected]

Their positions are funded through the Friends of Fort Worden. The pair began working at the park in October.

The daily responsibilities have been to remove toxic and invasive plants such as Scotch broom and poison hemlock as part of the Friends’ “Nix the Nox!” campaign and assist with the group’s bi-weekly newsletter, they said in an interview Thursday.

Rees is from southern New Hampshire. Marchand is originally from Seattle. He wanted to explore some place new. She wanted to return to the area.

“I wanted to serve the communities I grew up in,” Marchand said.

For spring and summer, the two have been asked to create interpretation programs about the park. They have set up the tours to follow state guidelines to protect against COVID-19.

“From there, we were given a lot of creative freedom to do what we wanted,” Marchand said.

Marchand decided to do the botany walk due to her background in plant ecology, while Rees has researched the gun batteries in regard to how soldiers operated the weaponry, they said.

“I hope to teach people how that whole process all works,” Rees said.

Both of them have two other interpretation programs they’ve developed, but they’re awaiting approval from Washington State Parks before they can implement them, Rees said.

This Saturday’s walks are a form of “trial run,” to gauge the amount of interest.

“If it goes well, we can do more,” Marchard said. “In the future, we’d love to offer these every weekend, or some kind of educational program every weekend.”

Added Reese: “That was the vision; feeling out interest with COVID.”

As of Thursday morning, 13 to 14 people had signed up for Marchard’s walks, so six to seven slots were left. Three people had signed up for Rees’ walks, so 17 slots were left.

Friends of Fort Worden President Mitch Freeman has been impressed with the work the pair has done during the past six months.

“Nate and Anna have really become ambassadors for the park,” he said in an email. “While they’re working around the park, visitors will come up to them and ask them questions about their renovation work and the park’s features, history and environment.

“They’ve become experts.”

The assignment for the two ends in July.

Friends aims to raise $20,000 to fund two more positions during the state’s GiveBIG drive on May 4-5 to continue the noxious weed removal program, which requires constant upkeep to be successful.

Additional funds raised by Friends will go to other planned projects.

More information regarding the GiveBIG event and other fundraisers will be released at a later date.

For more about Friends of Fort Worden, go to fwfriends.org.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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