There would not be Fred Bergdolt and Debi Heuring without the outdoors. Fred recalls, “We met on an airplane. We were both coming back from Mexico. She got the middle seat and I got the seat by the window. We started up a conversation and she made fun of the book I was reading, a book on advanced birding. It was black and white illustrations of gulls and so she pointed at the illustration and said, “That’s a bird!” 18 years later, they are married and still spending their time together outside sharing birds and greenery.
A lot of life, love, and accomplishments have happened since that day on the plane. Fred worked at the Washington Department of Transportation as a wetland biologist and stormwater scientist for over 20 years, and Debi worked at Sierra Pacific Timber Company in Centralia for 12 years. They both retired in the fall of 2018 and were looking for something meaningful to keep them busy when they became involved with Capitol Land Trust’s Trail Steward program.
“We like the things that Capitol Land Trust does, the idea of conserving land and restoring degraded properties and we really like the idea that you link the properties together like Randall Preserve, Allison Springs, and some of the other areas in the Mud Bay region. So, we wanted to volunteer, and we thought Capitol Land Trust was an opportunity to do that.” – Fred & Debi
Debi and Fred’s first interaction with Capitol Land Trust (CLT) was on a birding event in partnership with the Black Hills Audubon Society at Darlin Creek Preserve. In addition to birds, the two were lucky enough to see a black bear walking along one of the trails of Darlin Creek Preserve and quickly snapped a photograph. Looking back, Debi still recalls this as her favorite discovery at Darlin Creek Preserve. After this event, the two “became interested in Darlin Creek and the opportunity to become a Trail Steward — and jumped at the opportunity.”
Fred and Debi have been Trail Stewards at Darlin Creek Preserve since September of 2019. CLT’s Trail Stewards are the eyes and ears of the four public-access preserves, visiting once a month and sending feedback to staff about the condition and user experience of each preserve. Often, though, Fred and Debi visit Darlin Creek more than their once a month charge, simply because they enjoy being there.
“I can tell you that during the COVID-19 crisis, that it has been really nice to go to Darlin Creek because it’s like all the stress that you feel kind of moves away. And now, because the vegetation is so thick, it is a great escape.”– Fred
In addition to being Trail Stewards, Fred and Debi give their time as stewardship volunteers. When I asked Debi what she enjoyed about being a steward at Darlin Creek she happily said, “I have enjoyed going out there and pulling Scot’s broom with everyone. Especially in an area that we pulled in the winter and then we went in the spring and pulled it!” Fred added, “And going back and looking at it now, and that pulling the scots broom has improved the area and how the plantings are growing so well.”
“We really look forward to participating with Capitol Land Trust and the stewardship parties and working side by side with likeminded people and the feeling of comradery. It’s just gratifying to volunteer.” – Fred & Debi
We are so grateful for the time and talent that Debi and Fred give to Darlin Creek Preserve as Trail Stewards and volunteers. Thank you!
Fred keeps a bird list every time they go out on the trails, which gets 20-30 unique bird sightings per visit. One of his favorite encounters was this spring when they saw a ruffed grouse and her chicks.
Debi’s favorite spot at Darlin Creek Preserve is the fern filled understory along the Piedra Trail.
Written by Justine Mischka, CLT AmeriCorps Restoration Coordinator