The COVID-19 pandemic has limited and slowed most activities, and staff members at the Friends of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands want to keep bringing outdoor activities, especially to the youngest members of the area.

The organization is focusing on its education and youth programs coming up, Executive Director Asa Deane said.

“We are so happy to be back out in the forest,” he said.

The organization is hosting some adult hikes, like a mindfulness hike earlier this month. Those will be posted on its website and are limited to only four hikers per event because of current state guidelines.

The goal with youth programs is to get kids outside and safely interacting with each other, he said. The Anacortes School District is doing what it can, but kids are still sitting in front of a screen for a long time each day and missing out on that social element, Deane said.

Hikes in the forest lands can be a good way to interact with other students, to get some physical activity and learn about nature, Deane said.

The group’s forest educator, Beck Pittman, has been coming up with programs for forest education, Deane said. Some will be led by Friends of the ACFL staff, but others can be done by parents or leaders of small groups of children. Someone can then take a small group out to the forest, an area park or even their own backyard and learn from nature and the outdoors, Deane said.

“It shows how to safely be outdoors with a bunch of kids,” he said. “You can do a mini-program at home.”

All programs can be found at www.friendsoftheacfl.org.

Registration for programs led by the Friends of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands for elementary students is closed for the first round, but Deane said they are looking to be taking kids out into the forest lands as much as they can in the coming months.

Registration is available on the city’s Parks and Recreation Department website. Right now, nature programs through the Friends group are only available for elementary school-age children, but those for older students are coming, Deane said.

To pay for education programs, the organization will host its annual fundraiser this month.

Normally, the event is filled with food, dancing and an auction. This year, they have to move the event to a virtual setting.

For its fundraising week, the group is hosting two guest speakers and a trivia night.

At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 20, Allison Cusick presents the webinar “Antarctic Gold – Searching for Treasure in an Invisible Forest.” She will talk about studying plankton in Antarctica. Plankton is responsible for producing 50% of the Earth’s oxygen. She will share her research on how melting glaciers are affecting the “invisible forest” in the Antarctic ocean. She’ll also share information about monitoring the Salish Sea.

At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, Tony Angell will present the webinar “A Vital and Healthy Nature – Finding Inspiration in the Natural World.” He will talk about his stone and bronze sculptures of crows, ravens and other corvids, as well as his experience with wildlife and why nature is essential as a source of inspiration.

A virtual trivia night is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22. Teams will compete on local and natural history knowledge, as well as pop culture.

Then, the annual raise the paddle and art auction at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23. 

The Friends of the Forest will host its annual fundraiser and share visions and stories of the forest lands. The raise the paddle portion will fund continuing education programs and the group will auction off the featured art piece “Fidalglow” by Alfred Currier. The work is on display at Watermark Book Co.

Registration is required for the webinars and the trivia night.

Information: www.friendsoftheacfl.org/2020-virtual-benefit.

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