Cambrian: Opinion

From SeaLife Stewards to Camp Ocean Pines, volunteer opportunities abound

Otters take their ease. Approaching kayakers in Morro Bay can stress the otters; SeaLife Stewards provides information about the estuary’s marine life to kayakers.
Otters take their ease. Approaching kayakers in Morro Bay can stress the otters; SeaLife Stewards provides information about the estuary’s marine life to kayakers. Special to The Cambrian

The weather was so perfect while I walked on Moonstone Beach today, that to sit down and write this column was a chore. The urge to stay outside as opposed to sitting in my office and staring at the computer screen was like a battle between the political left and the political right!

You see, the angel on my left shoulder reminded me that being in nature will make me a better person. David Strayer, a researcher at the University of Utah, would agree with my invisible winged friend. He wrote, “People have been discussing their profound experiences in nature for the last several 100 years — from Thoreau to John Muir to many other writers. Now we are seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest we are physically and mentally more healthy when we are interacting with nature.”

So you might find your Thoreau moment while giving service to our community with some of the following outdoor volunteer opportunities.

A new volunteer group, SeaLife Stewards, seeks experienced kayakers who swim and can tolerate three hours in the water in Morro Bay. SeaLife Stewards is based on a Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary program, Team OCEAN. Bette Bardeen, Cayucos resident, saw the need and spearheaded the program.

“With more tourists visiting Morro Bay each year, protecting our marine life from human disturbance becomes more of an issue,” Bardeen explained. “Sea otters are very sensitive to disturbance. While their fur is thick, they don’t have the capacity to retain fat, so they must eat constantly and then rest. When kayakers approach them, this stresses the otters. So what the SeaLife Stewards will do is provide information to approaching kayakers about our estuary’s marine life.”

The stewards will serve as informal educators. Bardeen added, “If tourism and human contact continues to stress the otters that live in the estuary, the otters will leave and find another locale along the coast to live.”

Bardeen reported that the first group of volunteers to undergo the three-day training program “range from ages 18 to 80, and include several Cambria residents. Additional information about becoming a volunteer is available by email at SeaLifeStewards, or by calling 805-772-6105.

Do you have an inner Gertrude Jekyll begging for release? Greenspace Executive Director Connie Gannon noted in an email, that “We could use a gardener or two to help out with transforming the community garden into a native plant demonstration garden.” Call 805-927-2866 for more information.

Hearst Castle also has a gardening docent program. You can call 805-927-2090 or visit

My guess is this column’s readers are not young enough for summer camp. Weep not. Chris Cameron at Camp Ocean Pines said, “There are always volunteer opportunities at Camp Ocean Pines.”

Cameron listed the following:

1. Camp store helpers — Love the retail experience, stocking and selling items at a tiny camp store?

2. Construction helpers — Like to build, paint, repair, hang doors, fix old buildings?

3. Woodworkers — Have your own shop and tools and like to build chairs, benches, signs, birdhouses for camp?

4. Landscape — Are you a dirt-under-the-fingernails person? Like to plant trees, pull weeds, chop thistle, spray poison oak?

5. Animals — Our hawks and intertidal invertebrates always need care and cleaning.

6. Paperwork — Love to organize, scan, document and save? Time to digitalize decades of files!

“We don’t turn many people away from our site if they truly want to help out on a regular basis. Fingerprinting is required because we always have kids on site,” Cameron said.

Your inner camper can call the camp’s office at 805-927-0254.

Obviously my right shoulder angel took charge and I learned more about how locals can satisfy the need for nature and service. But, there’s a mighty tug on my left shoulder and a tiny voice whispering, “Go back out into nature and find your better angel.”

Charmaine Coimbra’s column on volunteering appears the fourth Thursday of each month and is special to The Cambrian.