After 24 years, the face of environmental education in the City of Edmonds – and the founder of annual city-sponsored Bird Fest — is retiring.
Sally Lider was first hired by the city in 1991 as a part-time beach ranger, a job that fit her background and interests. (A native of Northern California, she was a wildlife biology major at Humboldt State University.)
In 1992, she was promoted to a part-time marine projects coordinator, a job that became full time – with the title of environmental education coordinator — 13 years ago.
In her current position, Lider oversees five seasonal beach rangers and one part-time interpretative specialist, all headquartered at the Olympic Beach Ranger Station at the foot of the Edmonds fishing pier. Initially, her work centered on marine education along the Edmonds waterfront. Then it expanded to include the entire Edmonds watershed, such as Yost Park and the Edmonds Marsh, as the city focused on educating residents and visitors about non-point source pollution and its effect on Puget Sound, Lider said.
She also coordinates outdoor education programs through the city’s Craze publication and manages the contract for the Beach Camp at Sunset Bay.
“What I love is hearing from people that participated in the programs as kids and said it gave them their first taste of conservation and caring for the environment,” Lider said.
Lider was also instrumental in acquiring, with the help of grants, the popular “touch tank” now located inside the ranger station, which gives visitors an opportunity to interact with local marine life.
But her most enduring legacy will be Birdfest, an annual celebration of birds and nature that was first hosted by the City of Edmonds in 2005. It now draws 500 people each year to Edmonds to learn about birding, bird habitat conservation and promoting bird-friendly gardening.
Lider said she first came up with the idea for Birdfest after learning about Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Commerce efforts to help communities build ecotourism opportunities.
“I looked at that and thought, ‘Why not Edmonds?’” Lider recalled. “The Washington Audubon Society puts out a State Birding Trail map and Edmonds was the number-one destination.” With the help of Susie Schaefer from the Pilchuck Audubon Society, Birdfest was born. “It’s made people more aware that Edmonds is a destination for birders,” Lider said.
In addition to celebrating all things birds, the three-day festival serves as a tourism draw, bringing visitors to shop and dine in Edmonds, Lider said.
Citing a quote from the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau — “People protect what they love” — Lider said that her work in Edmonds has been focused on “fostering that sense of ownership” of the environment. “We’ve seen a lot of involvement by volunteers in education and advocacy and habitat restoration, such as the Native Demonstration Plant Garden (located off Highway 104 at the base of Pine Street) and the Friends of the Marsh,“ she said.
Lider’s last day with the city is July 2. Her plans include “sunshine, dancing (she enjoys Scottish country dance and international folk dance), travel and environmental advocacy.” She and her husband Bill Lider, a semi-retired civil engineer, will be traveling throughout the Northwest in August and have a three-week trip planned in September/October to Iceland, England and Scotland.
“Exploring my roots is part of the reason for going,” said Lider, whose heritage is Scottish, English and Irish.