Greetings from Friday Harbor! As you plan your upcoming vacation to the Island or reflect on a past one, we wanted to share this interesting news. The Journal of the San Juan Islands recently reported that San Juan County is the healthiest in Washington. Compiled as part of a nationwide survey, the information pulled together factors such as tobacco and alcohol use, obesity rates, social and economic conditions, and access to health care and environmental factors.
Officials all have their theories as to why each factor ranked as it did, but we locals take the "man-on-the-street" view. Each island has its own unique temperament, so to speak, but they share qualities of beautiful surroundings which rejuvenate the spirit; air that smells good; and easy access to recreation. The outdoors is a major focus. Island Rec runs year-round programs, free to the public, which include team sports, organized runs, a skate park and, not to forget our four-legged friends, even a canine carnival. Hiking trails abound in our two national parks.
Here on San Juan Island, it is the norm to bicycle or walk your errands in town, carrying purchases in canvas bags or back packs. At some homes a walk to the mailbox entails a hike of a mile or more. Getting a few extra steps in our day on this hilly landscape is inherent to island living.
Being such a small community, we get to know - or at least hear about - most of the food producers on the island. The Farmers' Market is a big deal, and when we buy local, we're truly buying from our neighbors. Not only do we get more nutritional value, we also help the economic base of our island community. In stark contrast to most cities, there are NO fast-food chains, hence no mindless way to pack on extra calories. We buy local and eat local.
Here there is a much greater sense of being connected, both to our neighbors and to nature around us. Most islanders are environmentally conscious. Overwhelming public support led to the recent city and county bans on styrofoam use for restaurant and deli take-out (Coho restaurant makes cute little foil swans for your unfinished portions). A cadre of volunteers regularly devotes precious days off to pick up trash along the roadsides and clean up beaches. Volunteers train for certification for our Oil Spill Responders Association, the only non-profit community-based one in the country. Countless numbers of people willingly give their time, mental stress and energy to serve on the boards of our Conservation District, Preservation Trust, Food Co-op, Nature Institute, Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Whale Museum and others. Soroptimists, the largest service club on the island, is the second-largest in the entire country, raising over $27,500 annually to fund scholarships, provide assistance to women and families in need, allot awards for outstanding students and women, and make avaialble free transportation for cancer patients who must travel to the mainland for treatments.
Though residents who work full-time may feel pressure and stress, the slower, more relaxed pace and attitudes of island living are simply much easier on the mind and body when compared to big-city life. Healthy living is the mode here - we hope you'll come experience it at least for a few days. After your first taste, you might choose to be our neighbor!
With warm regards,
Anna Maria and Dave