Marine Park Hosting

Washington State Parks and Recreation manages the largest mooring system in the nation with 40 marine parks located from Olympia to the San Juan Islands. The parks typically provide mooring buoys, a dock for shore access, and tent/RV camping. We are regular visitors.

Marine park hosting is one of several types of hosts in the state park system that includes camp host, interpretive center host, environmental learning center host, and maintenance host. All are volunteer positions. Many involve working around children or vulnerable adults and handling cash or processing credit transactions. As such, all volunteers must submit their fingerprints and pass a federal background check. A marine park host must also have their own boat and are required to live on it during their times at the park.

One of the largest marine parks offering the most amenities is Blake Island Marine State Park located a few miles from Seattle. It is an entire island that is only accessible by boat and provides 1,500 feet of marina-like dock space with shore power. And it is one of just two or three that has an onsite marine park host. Two park rangers live on the island and manage another park as well. Their ranger duties do not allow them to focus on the marina as much as necessary, so they rely on the marine park host to ensure it runs smoothly.

So with that intro, I recently completed my first week as the marine park host at Blake Island Marine State Park. With this park’s proximity to Seattle and Tacoma, it is always busy on weekends and hosting opportunities are available year round. I arrived on the Monday before the Memorial Day weekend.

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My first week as a marine park host
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Fiddler docked at the park host location

After directing a boat to a suitable location on the docks and helping them tie up, one of the first items discussed is the fearless raccoon population that will get on your boat and search for food, including while you are on the boat. Although they are very cute, they can find any accessible food and when they get it, they will battle you to keep it.

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What a cute little raccoon
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Masked invader climbing down the ladder from the flybridge

Twice per day, the Argosy Cruise boats bring passengers to see the Native American show and salmon lunch/dinner at Tillicum Village, located adjacent to the marina. We saw the show and had the dinner last summer and wrote about it here.

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Argosy Cruise boat
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Argosy Cruise boat

The first few days of the week were pretty slow and I had time to spend with Cathleen, who came with me for the week, and to hike.

But starting on Thursday, the marina filled up every night and I was turning boaters away.

We finished our week on Monday afternoon and returned home. As I told the ranger on the day we left, I really enjoyed the week. Although hectic at times, it was fun being able to talk with many other boaters and share experiences. But most of all, it was personally rewarding to support the park system and at the same time reap the benefits of volunteering, such as reduced stress, increased self-confidence, a sense of purpose, and lots of physical activity.

We have one more week scheduled to host this summer, but I may sign up for more!

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