Connecting People and Nature

Community Service Spotlight

Wild Whatcom logo

by Amye Bronson-Doherty

Wild Whatcom is a Whatcom County nonprofit offering outdoor, environmental education and enrichment programs to people of all ages and abilities. Our mission is to foster lifelong connections to nature. By focusing on two key elements — enabling people to discover and explore local nature spaces and encouraging group interactions outdoors — we help participants build connections with their ecosystem and their community.

Wild Whatcom takes a participant-led, inquiry-based approach to exploration and learning. We want the people who join us on an outing, whether they’re two or ninety-two, to follow their curiosity, ask questions, and use our shared experiences as a way to get to know each other,” explains Sammy Jolly, Executive Director. “When people feel comfort and belonging outside, they’re motivated to return, and spend more time in nature.”

About Wild Whatcom

The organization began in 2004 as a grassroots effort by ​​a local mother to get her daughter and their friends outside, regularly guiding them on outings to beaches and forest trails throughout the county. Their shared enthusiasm for these group adventures inspired other families to join in the fun. Over time, these outings grew and combined with Wild Things (previously Whatcom Walks), Wild Whatcom’s other founding program, to become the basis for community-centered outdoor education programs. In 2011, Wild Whatcom incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Today, our programs serve over 3,000 participants a year, clocking 50,000 collective hours in nature. Programs consist of three general categories: fee-based youth programs, donation-based community programs, and subsidized school programs (free to the schools).

Youth programs (ages 3-18) include nature preschool, after school, weekend and summer programs. Community programs offer outings for all ages, including families with young children and specialized programs for adults, such as affinity programs for women and non-binary adults, queer adults and allies, and adults of all generations and abilities, looking for a slower pace on accessible trails. 

Wild Whatcom’s school programs are designed for Title I and rural elementary schools, and for special education students in grades K-12. We currently partner with five Whatcom County school districts to provide regular outings throughout the school year.

Health impacts

The alignment of human health and ecological health is central to Wild Whatcom’s values and approach to outdoor learning. Time in nature is not only associated with higher levels of physical activity, but is also linked with measurable health benefits including reduced stress, improved mental health, increased prosocial behavior and connectedness, greater happiness, and improved cognitive and motor development, among others. Note: research citings are available on our website.

There is also a correlation between access to nature and income levels, intensifying gaps in health equity. Many residents of Whatcom County continue to face significant poverty, inactivity, toxic stress, and disconnection — all of which lead to poor health outcomes. Wild Whatcom aims to support the health of people in our community by providing opportunities to develop their sense of wonder, give back through stewardship, and make positive connections with each other. 


Love of nature and commitment to equitable outdoor access is shared by many organizations in Whatcom County, and Wild Whatcom recognizes we are stronger together. By collaborating with parks departments, school districts, social service providers, and other nonprofits, we serve a wide range of communities, and lend our strengths to group projects. 

When organizations work together, we can learn from each other and the people we serve. It’s easier to recognize gaps in service, and to be responsive to changing community needs,” notes Jolly. 

While current partnerships span local, regional, and state level initiatives, Wild Whatcom is firmly rooted in Whatcom County. By staying focused on our local community, we can encourage people to explore and steward the nature spaces closest to them.

Wild Whatcom Testimonials

20th Anniversary

2024 marks Wild Whatcom’s 20th anniversary. We’ll be celebrating throughout the year with partner events at local venues; we will also be offering merchandise with unique designs by local artist Gretchen Leggitt. Donations to our current spring fundraiser, 20 for 20, will support program scholarships for families in need. Information about 20th anniversary activities can be found at 

What’s Next

As a community-led organization, we want to bring our best to our existing programs, while always paying attention to people and places that are underserved. In the next year, we are helping establish a new partnership with the Nooksack Valley School District, Vamos Outdoors Project, the Nooksack Indian Tribe Education Department, and other organizations through a project called Seed to STEM. We are also gathering community input to prepare an all ages BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) nature walk program.

Wild Whatcom invites you to come outside with us! A complete listing and descriptions of all of our programs are at Please consider supporting our efforts to foster nature and community connections with a donation: Questions? Contact us at


Amye Bronson-Doherty is Wild Whatcom’s development and communications manager.

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