This is for Marion. Today wouldn’t have happened without Marion, DASH and the new beach chair. (Update: For the complete story of how this beach chair and also a beach walker came to our community, please see the comments below by Anne McEnery, Jefferson County Public Health Development Disabilities Coordinator and Marion Huxtable of DASH.)
Jack spent this afternoon on the beach in front of our house, a crescent that sweeps from Point Hudson to the lighthouse out on Point Wilson. It was his first time in the eleven years that we’ve been in Port Townsend either as moorage tenants or homeowners.
Not only was the weather perfect, today was the Canoe Journey. We sat atop the dune and watched the ceremonial arrival of crews from Canadian First Nations and tribes from the outer coast and throughout the Salish Sea. As each canoe approached the shore, elders of the tribe who were sitting under a tent would request permission to come ashore from the Jamestown S’Kallalam. After drumming, song, and prayers in the native languages, crews carried their canoes onto the beach, with help from Port Townsend folks.
We’d picked up the beach chair at the Cablehouse Beach Canteen at the head of the pier. Signed a waiver, left drivers’ license and credit card, although there is no cost.
We started our walk on the stretch of beach between the lighthouse and the pier. The chair is surprisingly easy to push, although I got help pushing up the dune. Since there are drift logs high on the dunes, it’s a good idea to make sure the path you’ve chosen is not blocked by a log. It’s easy enough to find a suitable path and important to stay on paths and not damage the dune grass.
The easiest stretch of beach to move on is just east of the pier. Hard packed sand is smooth and yet leads to interesting low tide wildlife.
About halfway down, the beach turns rocky so it’s nice to move to the long, low-tide spit. It’s fairly easy to push the chair over the seaweed-covered stones. We looked for a narrower band of them and stopped to turn over stones and see what was under them.
Once on the spit, it’s easy going again. As we got toward Point Hudson awe cross to the path on shore. Here we got into some difficulty because the tide was now coming in. We headed for the green patches, but here they are not seaweed-covered rock but eelgrass. Eelgrass grows fast in the summer and it’s hard to estimate how much of it is floating on the surface. We got into deeper water and probably did some damage to this important salmon habitat. But as happened all along the walk, some folks helped us get to shore.
After dropping Jack off near home and bringing his scooter, I walked the chair back down the beach. This took a while as I was repeatedly stopped by beach walkers with questions! A woman from Sequim who’d never imagined a beach chair, came up open-mouth in amazement. She’d noticed people moving with difficulty along Dungeness Spit. Two paddlers from the Jamestown S’Kallam tribe took photos of the chair to Facebook so they can start a campaign to get a chair for their elders.
So hats off to Marion and her colleagues at DASH. The folks at the Fort Worden Canteen are displaying the chair and a fat-wheeled walker right at the front door. I offered to give the chair a shower before returning it but they said they’d take care of it. The signout procedure is fine, though I see no reason to leave both drivers’ license and credit card. The form, moreover, should not ask borrowers to write down credit card number.
What I’d really like to see is DASH take some credit and use the beach chair to do some education. A clear plastic pocket could be attached to the back of the seat. Information about project partners, availability and instructions for use could be prominently displayed there. Small handouts of some kind could be included for those who want to tell others or who are interested in getting chairs for their communities. And why not give chair users a chance to make a donation?