Lighthouse Environmental Programs
In the late 1980's, the Director of Washington State University (WSU) Extension of Island County, Don Meehan, recognized a disturbing trend. Island County was rapidly losing its fragile natural systems.
Few people understood how to care for our waters, shores and uplands. So Meehan launched WSU Beach Watchers (now known as Sound Water Stewards) and WSU Waste Wise volunteers to educate the community and recruit volunteers. Both groups set out to engage citizens with a combination of education and service.
As the two programs quickly grew in numbers it was clear the small office in Coupeville was going to be inadequate. Meehan formed a partnership with Fort Casey State Park to house the two new programs as they had an empty lighthouse (Admiralty Head) that had been closed due to budget cuts a few years prior. In exchange these programs would use their volunteers to keep the lighthouse open to the public and recruit new volunteers just for that purpose. In February 1994 Admiralty Head Lighthouse became the home of those two programs.
In 1995 Meehan and volunteers created a 501(c)3 non profit organization called Lighthouse Environmental Programs (LEP) to help support the two environmental education programs as well as the newly formed WSU Admiralty Head Lighthouse Docent Program. A couple of years later docent volunteers formed a group called Keepers of Admiralty Head Lighthouse, which raises funds to support improvements in the displays at the lighthouse.
Management of the docent program was transferred to Washington State Parks in 2015 and is now managed by the Fort Casey Program Specialist and the Docent Council. The Sound Water Stewards program is now independent as a 501(c)3 non profit and is no longer associated with Washington State University. The Waste Wise volunteer program remains under the leadership of Island County WSU Extension.
In 2004 WSU Extension Docent Program Coordinator Gloria Wahlin came forth with the idea that LEP should apply for a specialty license plate. The plate could help fund the infrastructure of the programs supported by the non profit. This project was undertaken and during the 2005 legislative session the Washington Legislature approved this new plate. It began selling to the public in 2006 and cost the non profit $30,000.
Since that time LEP has carefully managed the license plate funds it receives, granting these funds to support WSU Beach Watchers/Sound Water Stewards, WSU Waste Wise, Admiralty Head Lighthouse Docents, and Keepers of Admiralty Head Lighthouse, as well as Washington State Lighthouses.