Outdoors

Ruby Egbert's legacy lives on at Bottle Beach State Park

WESTPORT – All of us leave an impression on this planet.

Some of us live on in the memories of others, in the things we did or said – or in one grand gesture that makes the world a better place.

The best of us — such as Ruby Egbert — live on in all those ways.

Egbert lives on in the memories of hundreds of people, but Bob Morse, Olympia-based bird book author, recalls her as a birding friend, a librarian and a world traveler.

Morse also reminded about 100 people last week that Egbert donated the money — between $100,000 and $200,000 — that helped the state buy and preserve Bottle Beach State Park, which is located on State Route 105 near Westport.

Egbert’s long life ended in 1996 — she was born in 1902 — and many of the people who gathered last week to celebrate Bottle Beach’s new boardwalk, hiking trails, bathroom and three birding blinds never met her.

“Her great enjoyment in life was travel, but she also came here to Bottle Beach, and we birded here together,” Morse told the crowd. “And Ruby Egbert made this possible.”

Egbert fell in love with Bottle Beach — once the site of Ocasta by the Sea, which was the Pacific shipping terminal for the Northern Pacific Railroad, Morse said.

Steamships regularly docked at a 2,900-foot-long wharf that jutted out into Grays Harbor, but the railroad abandoned Ocasta in 1893, and little is left of the once-bustling town.

The dock pilings and a few buildings were all that remained when Morse and Egbert began visiting Bottle Beach during the 1980s. Their visits continued into the early 1990s, and Egbert eventually put her money where her heart lived.

Egbert’s gift, given long ago, helped Washington buy 75 acres of land and 6,000 feet of shoreline. Bottle Beach is one of the best places to spot the 1 million or so shorebirds that stop in Grays Harbor during their migrations to and from Central America and the Arctic breeding grounds.

The mudflats off Bottle Beach teem with the worms, shrimp, crabs and tiny crustaceans that fuel the little birds on their long journey.

“I have identified more than 130 species of birds here,” Morse said.

But the story of Bottle Beach, and personal impressions, continued after Egbert’s death.

The land, beach and birding spot were saved, but Bottle Beach remained sketchy for many visitors. Exotic plants, such as Himalayan blackberry and Scotch broom, covered the wetlands. There was little parking and many people drove right by the hidden gem.

But then volunteers, workers from State Parks, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies made Bottle Beach their passion.

Kelli Bush of State Parks gained fame as the woman who called the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers every day while shepherding the park through the permit process.

Bush was at the ceremony last week, and she blushed as others spoke of her work.

She smiled while she recalled the years of work that turned Bottle Beach into a gem.

“Weed control began in 2004 — we used to talk about the old-growth Scotch broom forest,” she said.

Now the park is a place to see hundreds of thousands of birds, walk the Grays Harbor shoreline and enjoy the quiet beauties of nature, Bush said.

Hundreds of others volunteered to build the park. All of them left a wonderful impression for all of us — and the wildlife.

Morse pointed out the rows of newly drilled holes in the rough cedar posts at one birding blind.

“These are red-breasted woodpecker holes,” he said.

You can’t help but think that Ruby Egbert would have been delighted with those tiny, precise impressions on the rough cedar bark.

Bottle Beach State Park is now easily seen from State Route 105 just a few miles outside of Westport. The park is located at the site of the now-vanished town of Ocosta by the Sea. To get to the park, take state Route 105 – the road to Westport – from Aberdeen. Look for the park signs on your right.

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