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Conservation Stories: Pat & Bev Jerns

A man and woman hold a sign on a pathway in front of a house. On either side of the path is mulch and plants.
Pat & Bev Jerns stand next to their home and newly installed native plant landscaping.

“Participating in the Whatcom Conservation District’s program to install low impact natural landscaping turned out to be one of smartest, and easiest, decisions we made.  We could not believe the wonderful outcome; seeing our yard as a thing of beauty and helping the environment at the same time.” – Pat & Bev Jerns

Pat grew up in Birch Bay, spending summers at a family cabin. After living near Lake Whatcom for years, he and his wife Bev decided to retire in Birch Bay. “We could not think of any place more perfect for us.” Since 1987, Pat and Bev have enjoyed living in sight of Birch Bay. They feel responsible for protecting the beauty and health of the area they love. “We all live in a sensitive area and have a duty to help make it better and keep it well,” they said.  

A woman plants a small shrub while another person walks behind her with a rake.
Before and after installing native landscaping.

When they heard about the Neighborhood Native Landscaping Program (NNLP) in the local paper, they thought it would be an excellent fit for their property and the bay. NNLP is a program funded by Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District (BBWARM) and jointly managed by the Whatcom Conservation District (WCD) and Whatcom County. The goal is to convert existing lawns and landscaping into native plant gardens that protect water quality and improve habitat. Homeowners are provided with planning guidance, permitting assistance, site prep, mulch, and, of course, native plants, all free of charge. An essential part of NNLP is getting a group of close neighbors (generally within walking distance) to participate, resulting in a cluster of native landscaping projects installed during a neighborhood planting party. Though the Jerns liked the idea of NNLP, they were hesitant at first. 

“It sounded very ambitious and almost a little too good.  However, it also fit exactly what we were planning for our landscaping for our home… As we completed each step, from beginning to end, our fears were put at ease.  The staff did an excellent job of not only assuring us each step of the way, but they performed beyond our expectations.  This whole experience was a complete win-win.  We could not be happier.” 

Three people smile and pose for a photo on the side of a house.
Staff and neighbors works together to install native landscaping.

The Jerns’ project was completed in early November of 2023, as part of a planting party that included neighbors from three nearby properties.  During the work party, NNLP participants, staff and neighbors converted 1,755 square feet of the Jerns’ yard to native landscaping with over 90 plants.  As the plants grow and mature, the Jerns are  excited to see how it all comes together. “We have a lot of natural habitat around us and believe everything will go together so well.” 

When asked if they would recommend the program to their friends and neighbors, they replied, “Yes, I would recommend participating in this program to anyone. The benefits are many; from just helping the environment to ending up with a beautiful, natural landscape.” If you are interested in participating in NNLP, visit Whatcom County’s website to learn more and fill out the NNLP interest form today. Currently, NNLP is only being offered in the Birch Bay and Lake Whatcom watersheds. Capacity is limited to 10-15 participants per year in each watershed, depending on available funding. Due to the cluster model, the more your neighbors sign up, the more likely your neighborhood will be selected to participate.

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