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By Regan Weeks

Here we are starting another Trail Tales season, introducing many locals to Anacortes stories along the Tommy Thompson Trail. One of my questions as a relative newbie to our island was "who was Tommy Thompson?" In finding the answer, I found double trouble. There were two Tommy Thompsons – father and son, and both have fascinating histories. Tommy Thompson (the father) was essentially the first American chemist to devote his major efforts to investigating the chemistry of sea water.

Born in 1888 on Staten Island, and trained as a chemist, he came to the University of Washington with his wife Harriet to pursue a graduate degree after serving in WWI. He stayed on to eventually become a full professor in 1929. He and Harriet had 3 children: Tommy Jr., born 10/3/1923; Jack, born 9/8/1925, and Harriet born 4/30/1931. During the late 1920s, Thompson became increasingly interested in the difficult problems associated with quantitative analysis of sea water, and spent summers working at the Puget Sound Biological Station on San Juan Island. In the days before large research grants were common, Thompson and his wife agreed to budget 10% of his salary to his research, which brought them both satisfaction. Some additional History: the San Juan Island Puget Sound Biological Station -now UW Friday Harbor Labs- was established in 1903 with the first classes in 1904. Students and teachers lived in tents, washing their own clothes and rowing and sailing to access interesting marine sites. It was a rough life, but students came from all over the world to attend for a few weeks in the summer.

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On May 13th, Trail Tales volunteers and members of other leading conservation groups were hosted by Tesoro Refinery for a tour of the March Point Facility.  Initially intended to be a Trail Tales extended learning opportunity, Tesoro Lead Environmental Engineer Rebecca Spurling, and several other staff and managers offered to host as many as the chartered motor coach would accommodate for a "perimeter tour".  This enabled Trail Tales to invite members from Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve Citizen's Committee and the Marine Resources Committee representatives Salish Sea Stewards volunteers.

The tour began in Anacortes and included stops at various points on March Point with Tesoro project leads and managers and specialists providing information about operations at the refinery and pier and rail transfer facilities, marine/water protection, oil spill response and conservation efforts. At one stop, Toby Mahar, engineer from the Northwest Clean Air Agency regulatory staff explained air emissions monitoring and regulation that she is involved in at the refineries.

Tesoro also provided a picnic lunch for attendees which expanded the opportunity for community members and Tesoro staff to engage with each other informally.  Trail Tales volunteers now have a better understanding of the Tesoro refinery operations and environmental protection programs, which they can refer to when questions are raised during our walk programs. The tour lasted approximately 4 hours and all participants felt it had been very valuable and informative.

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The 2014 Fidalgo Shoreline Academy was a big success on February 5th with 90 attendees, up 20 from last year!  We hope those of you who attended enjoyed the day and were inspired by the many educational presentations and walks.  Our keynote speaker, Dr. Deborah Kelley wowed the audience with an amazing presentation on deep sea volcanoes and vents with amazing photos and videos.  She even brought some samples of volcanic rock from the ocean floor for us to see and feel. 

Sorry you missed it or can't wait to learn more? You can learn more about the UW Interactive Oceans program that she is involved with and you can learn more about her research with Dr. John Delaney, our keynote speaker in 2012, on their research vessel the "Thomas Thompson" at the University of Washington's Interactive Oceans website.  We're hoping to line up a visit for Friends members and volunteers to their ship when it comes to port.  You can view the  video here.  http://uwtv.org/watch/PIUKej4_XMU/.

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By Trail Tales Docent Peyton Kane

W McCracken 2The vibrant Port of Anacortes is the result of many years of effort, and many people with foresight, vision, drive and connections.  Here is a picture of one of them (courtesy Anacortes American):  William F. McCracken, Jr. who served on the first board of commissioners of Port of Anacortes from 1926 to 1929.  

William McCracken was born in 1892, and lived in Anacortes from early childhood.  His father, of the same name, owned and operated the Eureka Saloon at the northwest corner of 4th Street and Commercial Avenue, and the family lived in the home behind the saloon, (now occupied by the graphic arts firm, How It Works).  In 1929 the wooden structure that housed the Eureka Saloon burned down, and William, Jr. built a new brick building on the site, which currently holds the Rock Fish Grill.  

Right here in Skagit County we have some amazing aquatic habitats that are so important that they've been designated as two of seven Washington State Aquatic Reserves. I'm talking about our own Fidalgo Bay – right here in Anacortes and Cypress Island just west of here. Over the past two years, Trail Tales has been working closely with the DNR's Aquatic Reserves program to highlight the unique marine habitats in Fidalgo Bay as part of our interpretive programs. In 2013, we worked closely with DNR staff who provided two interpretive signs highlighting the Fidalgo Bay reserve, which have been installed along with the Trail Tales signs developed under funding from the WA Dept. of Ecology.

WA DNR Reserves MapThis is a great example of the benefits that Trail Tales has realized by partnering with other organizations to educate our community and visitors about the importance of protecting our marine and shoreline ecosystems. DNR's Aquatic Reserves program has new management that we will be working with in the coming year to help spread the word in our community about these unique reserves. Roberta Davenport is the new Aquatic Reserves Program Manager responsible for all seven reserves, which includes: Skagit County: Fidalgo Bay and Cypress Island, Whatcom County: Cherry Point, Island County/Whidbey Island: Smith & Minor Islands, King County: Maury Island, Jefferson/Clallam County borders: Protection Island, and Near Olympia: Nisqually Reach. You can download a larger copy of the reserves map below at DNR's website (click here).

These reserves are special places and each has a Citizen's Stewardship Committee that is working with DNR to protect these areas. Are you interested in getting involved with the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve Committee? Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll put you in touch with the right people. So next time you're out on the trail or driving by Fidalgo Bay you might look out with a new sense of wonder that we have such a unique and important marine treasure right here in our own backyard.

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