Wings Over Water to feature local science expert

Published on Thu, Apr 9, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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Local science teacher Jim Jorgensen will lead one of his popular and entertaining geology field trips as a part of Blaine’s seventh annual Wings over Water (WOW) on April 18.

“We’ll take two and a half hours and get a real good look at some local geology and wildlife in the process,” Jorgensen said. The itinerary for the two scheduled departures, tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., will be to drive around Drayton Harbor and have several significant geological features pointed out, then stop at the museum at the base of Semiahmoo Spit to hear docent Sunny Brown talk about fishing and cannery history, then go for a beach walk to see more geology and bird life.

“We’ll have a spotting scope along,” said the irrepressible Jorgensen, 69. “The spit itself is formed by something called long shore drift. Sediment from Birch Point gets carried around and deposited by the flood tides. The problem is that it’s shrinking now with the changes that settlement has brought to Drayton Harbor.”

Jorgensen first came to Blaine in the spring of 1964 as a high school science teacher. He expanded that role over the years to include many different disciplines such as ornithology, astronomy and even outdoor life.

Still, it was Jorgensen who organized the local turkey races held on the track. “One year we had [KOMO weatherman] Steve Pool come up, and he won. We had [Blaine teacher] Bill Schroeder disguised as a hunter and he came up at one point, hat pulled down low, walking across the football field toward the stands that were filled with students. I said ‘There goes one!’ and Bill shot three shells well over the grandstand, then another guy up in the press box poured a little gravel on the roof and threw down a bag of chicken feathers. I yelled ‘You got one!’ and the kids went wild. It was a lot of fun.”

Jorgensen’s interest in and talent for teaching science has continued beyond his 30 year career as a high school teacher that ended with his retirement in 1993. Since then he’s continued to teach his “Salmonar” fishing seminars and has developed an adult version of his once popular three day geology field trips into the Cascades and Eastern Washington he once offered to high school freshmen.

Jorgensen began offering the field trips in 1970 and continued for 24 years. They had a well-earned reputation for fun and adventure and were highly popular with students. Jorgensen has taken two similar excursions with adults and hopes to be able to do another one this year that will focus on the southern Cascades, including stops at Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.

“The biggest difference is that with the adults we stay in motels. The kids slept in the dirt,” he laughed. “Well, not really... They were in tents.”

Jorgensen said that the local achievement he’s most proud of is Marine Park. “We started in 1987, and tried to get voters to approve a Marine Center. It failed by just seven votes, so we ran it again and lost the second time, too. It was not a pleasant experience, especially when some people seemed to really dig in their heels against it evidently because it would raise taxes on their investment properties.”

Jorgensen and others, notably Judy Dunster, persevered and in 1998 Marine Park was dedicated on the site of a former garbage dump. “I used to go there myself and shoot rats,” Jorgensen said. Currently, the city continued improvements, using fill from the water treatment project to build a mound behind the amphitheater, effectively expanding the seating, and reducing the height of the fences on the sides to open up views for the audience. Future plans call for replacing the three shelters, almost ideally located for birding the distinct habitats from the mouth of Cain Creek along to a deep water habitat at the westernmost shelter.

The geology field trips at WOW on April 18 cost $5 apiece and will travel in the Smuggler’s Inn bus. “I guarantee a fun time,” said Jorgensen.