May 2022 we collaborated with San Juan Preservation Trust to host a special and popular experience of camping on Cypress Island in conjunction with a private interpretive tour of Vendovi Island.
Cypress Island is one of Washington’s marine trails, accessible only by watercraft. We shared the space with wildflowers, sea birds, Northwestern Salamanders, sea lions, seals, eagles, porpoises, with a backdrop of the full moon.
Vendovi is a remote island with pristine beaches, lush forests, native grasslands, rich wildflower meadows, healthy wetlands, and diverse plant and animal habitat. Only 2 of the island’s 217 acres have been developed. Vendovi is one of the wildest private islands in the San Juan archipelago, which is why for many years it has been a priority for permanent conservation. Vendovi Island’s 217 acres, including 2.8 acres of shoreline, has been under San Juan Preservation Trust’s care since 2010. Here we talked about the island’s Black history through ownership of Father Divine and his International Peace Mission Movement. (To learn more about this civil rights activist you’ve probably never heard of check out the documentary “Father’s Kingdom”).
For some participants, this was their first trip with a backpack. This was most participants’ first experience visiting and camping on one of Washington’s Cascade Marine Trails where they got to practice 100% fully self-supported camping which included bring their own potable water. For some, this was their first experience visiting any San Juan Island. Participants adopted principles of Leave No Trace and learned about the legacy importance of stewardship, preservation, conservation, management of public lands as well as why visitors to island communities should be extra mindful of issues regarding water usage (water limitations on islands that are completely surrounded by water) and trash (it doesn’t magically disappear – how trash gets taken off island). These skill-building and Community building campouts and experiences are extremely important. This campout also provided Community a safe space to Rest — Black people are dying from sleep deprivation and our resistance to rest is a social justice and public health issue.
Never underestimate the power of nature to galvanize and to heal.
We need to spread an awareness of the importance of conservation and diversify outdoor spaces.
Forming a community is a ton a work – it takes so many people, events, word-of-mouth, and time to form something like this but it’s incredible to be a part of. This really hit home for me during our discussion on Vendovi when someone asked “HOW do we bring more BIPOC into conservation of the outdoors” and it is truly a hard question to tackle. I hope to spread the word and support the bronze chapter’s mission to grow this community even more!
Gratitude to Justice Outside. San Juan Preservation Trust. Captain Jon and Lisa Arsdale. Caretaker Thyatira Thompson. You are committed to supporting Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color in the movement towards a more racially-just outdoors.
If you missed this experience we hope to see you next time.