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Fun in Two Languages: Siletz Bilingual Kayak Tours

PHOTO: Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge is hosting summer kayak and canoe tours in Spanish as well as English this summer, to encourage more Spanish speakers to enjoy and explore the bay. Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.
PHOTO: Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge is hosting summer kayak and canoe tours in Spanish as well as English this summer, to encourage more Spanish speakers to enjoy and explore the bay. Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.
June 26, 2014

LINCOLN CITY, Ore. - A summer visit to a National Park or National Wildlife Refuge can be a challenge when visitors don't speak English, so the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Lincoln City is offering bilingual canoe and kayak tours this summer.

The free, two-hour trips offer an introduction to the area's natural history and wildlife - and for some, a first chance to paddle.

Lucila Fernandez, Latino outreach program coordinator at the Siletz Bay refuge, says there are routes for novices on the water as well as more experienced kayakers. Either way, she says it's a much different wildlife-watching experience than at a city park or zoo.

"You get to see bald eagles and turkey vultures and swifts, all doing their thing out in nature," says Fernandez. "There's one point in the kayak tour, which is probably one of my favorites, where you go beneath the Highway 101 overpass - and you can hear the songs of at least three different types of flycatchers."

Three tours are scheduled for July - on the 3rd, 7th and 18th - but Fernandez says the refuge staff can accommodate groups on other dates with some advance notice through mid-August. For safety, the maximum tour size is 10 people at a time. People can bring their own canoes or kayaks, or rent them in the Lincoln City area.

Fernandez is part of Environment for the Americas, a nonprofit group with the goal of increasing diversity in areas of science and nature. She says the group's research has found Latino families enjoy outdoor recreation as much as anyone else, but often don't know what's available in their area, or when they arrive find it difficult to relax and fit in.

"You can imagine the feeling," Fernandez says. "There isn't anyone available who's speaking Spanish, there isn't anyone available who is coming from that culture. The signs in a lot of parks aren't in Spanish, so it's not as inviting or welcoming for someone not of the larger culture."

This summer, bilingual Environment for the Americas interns are also focused on introducing more people to the importance of migratory birds, and are working with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at multiple sites along the Pacific Flyway.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR