Orcas kids will now have the chance to learn and grow in a nontraditional school setting: the forest.
A group of parents have formed the Orcas Island Forest School for kids ages two and a half to six to participate in play-based, all-weather, outdoor early childhood education.
“Our daughter Alma is going into preschool and there are lots of great options here, but we realized that if we really wanted this for our kids, we’d have to do it ourselves,” said founding member Andrew Youngren.
Orcas Wild, a new interpretive wildlife center, is opening in Eastsound across from the Episcopal Church on Main Street.
Demi Gary, a naturalist, boat captain and executive director of interpretative center Orcas Wild, said the center is a place for “learning and discovering.”
It will be open to the public on May 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Watch the Sounder for information about the grand opening on June 9.
Visitors to Orcas Wild will find installments of visual posters by local naturalists. There will also be interactive elements to the center like a video area for screening of films donated by the Center for Whale Research and iPads equipped with whale sounds to show the diversity of each animal’s “voice.”
“They have languages like people,” said Gary. “We also want people to see how whales are an important part of the ecosystem.”
Orcas Island Artworks, an artists cooperative that lost its home to fire in 2013, is rising from the ashes — quite literally — and will return April 25 to the reconstructed Strawberry Building in the Orcas Island village of Olga.
The historic wooden structure, originally the Strawberry Barreling Plant, was erected in 1938 to process the 450-acres worth of strawberries grown in the area at that time. Arson was suspected when the popular visitor attraction burned in July 2013.
Since 1981, it had housed the Artworks gallery, exhibiting the works of dozens of local artists and craftspeople. The James Hardman Gallery occupied an upper floor. Tiny Cafe Olga was another tenant.
All moved to Eastsound, Orcas Island’s largest town, after the fire. The Artworks and the Hardman Gallery are returning to Olga, while Cafe Olga has opted to stay in Eastsound.
SEATTLE — For 15 years, it was a family home in West Seattle, scene of holiday parties and visits by children and grandchildren.
Early Saturday morning, it sets sail for Orcas Island.
“I’ll be happy on this end,” said Cindy, who lived in the home with her husband but asked not to have her last name published. “I’m hoping somebody will be happy on the other end too.”
On the other end, Cindy’s house is being donated to OPAL Community Land Trust on Orcas Island that helps people find affordable housing.
When Ballard resident Michael Murray visited Orcas Island with his wife this March, they almost missed their ferry home.
“I didn’t realize there was a reservation system, and there was a really small amount of drive-up space available,” said Murray, an entrepreneur with a background in energy conservation and software development. “We just got lucky.” He tried using his smartphone to book a spot, but it was too close to the sailing time and the reservation was not allowed.
“I thought, this is going to hit a lot of people off-guard,” he said.
Later, as he browsed the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) ferry reservations website, Murray saw room for improvement.
“This is a great example of services that come from government agencies that are really lacking in some respects,” he said. Murray thought it would be “fun” to create his own user-friendly gateway website designed to automate some functions and to take some of the frustration out of the reservations experience.
“The expectations that people have of websites today are so incredibly high,” he explains. “Companies like Amazon and Netflix have literally tens of millions a year that go into website usability. We know for a fact that WSDOT does not have those kinds of resources, so there is this increasing gap between user experience and expectations, so that’s a gap I like to play in.”
Murray’s new site, aptly named FlexFerry, is designed to soften some of the rigidity structured into the state reservations portal.
The Orcas Island Park and Recreation District and the San Juan County Land Bank are looking into the feasibility of providing a new, permanent home for the Orcas Off-leash Area – also known as the “Dog Park.” The proposed site is a two-acre portion of the Land Bank’s 115-acre Crescent Beach Preserve uplands adjacent to Buck Park and Mt. Baker Road.
The present off-leash area, located on Port of Orcas land near the airport at the corner of Mt. Baker and North Beach roads, is managed by OOLA’s volunteer board.
While the port has been very generous in permitting use of their property for this purpose, there is concern that, due to grant obligations with the Federal Aviation Administration, the use could be revoked.
Tony Simpson, Port Manager, notes that, “We enjoy having the off-leash area, and they have been good tenants, but we cannot guarantee we will be able to continue to provide the space. The proposed new location adjacent to Buck Park seems ideally suited for this popular activity.”
No one has lived in Edith Macefield’s Ballard home since 2008, the year she passed away. But in the near future, the so-called Up House may once again be filled with life.
Spoiler alert: Macefield’s house is most likely moving to Orcas Island.
If you haven’t heard the back story, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:
In 2006, developers offered 84-year old Macefield $1 million for her little home, but she refused the money. They built up a big shopping center called Ballard Blocks literally all around the house. The story went international, locals got tattoos in Edith’s honor, and visitors from around the world continue to make pilgrimages to the house, even though it’s been stripped down to its studs and sits behind a chain-link fence.
The house went up for sale a few months ago, but realtor Paul Thomas said no one could afford it.
“The fundamental problem is that the house was vacant for more than two years. Because of that, the City of Seattle deems that it’s now required to comply with 2012 building codes. Unfortunately, the cost of taking a 100-year-old house and upgrading it is so high that it was really prohibitive for the groups that looked very hard at making a business here.”
So he and the owner decided to donate the house. Five parties sent in proposals, and on Tuesday we learned it will be given to a nonprofit called OPAL that provides affordable housing to families.
An Orcas Island artist has been selected by the Blue Moon Brewing Company to help celebrate the company’s 20 years of brewing.
Christine Lee of Cedar Hill Road, Eastsound, and Seattle, is one of 20 artists nation-wide to have their art selected to adorn bottles of Blue Moon beer this summer. The brewery, based in Golden, Co., unveiled the artwork July 1.
The art selection was based on creativity and expression. The one criterion of the competition was that each piece of art had to have a blue moon in the rendering. The beer with the new artwork is available on Orcas Island.
Orcas Island Public Library received a critical boost with passage of the state’s biennial budget for 2015–2016, which included $1.4 million in funding for the Library’s expansion project, “Books and Beyond: The Next Chapter.”
Senator Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, supported by Representatives Jeff Morris and Kris Lytton, included the request in the capital budget. “On Orcas, the Library is the heart of the community,” said Senator Ranker. “This funding will help the Library realize its full potential as the go-to place on the island for all kinds of information for all ages, free access to computers and the internet, and a welcoming place to read, learn, work, and meet.”
ORCAS ISLAND, Wash. — The village of Eastsound’s current mayor is blind, adorable and covered in fur. His name is Jack, and he’s a Golden Retriever.
Orcas Island is unincorporated, and therefore has no actual, human mayor or city hall. For the last seven years, that post has been held by animals – one cow and six dogs.
The election is staged by Children’s House, a non-profit preschool that has existed on Orcas Island for more than 40 years. Each vote is a donation to the organization, $1 minimum for an in person contribution, $5 online.
Jack’s reign as mayor ends Saturday. A slate of five candidates are vying for the position now, in what has turned out to be an election laced with lighthearted controversy and one big contender.
Granny, the 103-year-old Orca leader of J-Pod has the inside track to become Eastsound’s new mayor. Attempts to reach Granny for comment were unsuccessful. Her campaign manager, Alex Callen, filled in the blanks.