Swimmer Spotlight: Chris Parks

2024 marks Chris Parks’ 20th Buzzards Bay Swim. We sat down with her to learn about her history with the Buzzards Bay Coalition and recount her favorite Swim stories.

BBC: How did you first become involved with the Coalition, and what roles have you taken on within the organization? 

CP: I became involved with the Coalition when I moved to Fairhaven from Boston in the late 1990’s. I didn’t know anyone here so I thought volunteering would be a great way to meet like-minded people.  I’ve done everything from stuffing envelopes to assisting the captain on board the Baykeeper pumping out boats on Cuttyhunk.  I signed up to be a Baywatcher [volunteer water quality monitor] in 2000 and was assigned the Fairhaven Shipyard as my water sampling site – where I still sample today.   The contrast between my “office” career in financial services and my retirement career as a citizen scientist is huge!  I also participated in my first swim in 2000.  Until I was invited to join the Leadership Council and eventually the Board, I had no idea of the breadth and depth of projects that the Coalition was involved in.  It’s a truly amazing organization and I am honored to be a part of it.

BBC: What made you sign up for your first Buzzards Bay Swim? 

CP: I can’t recall why I signed up for the Swim, but I probably thought it would be fun.  I’ve always felt very comfortable in the water so I knew I could do it, though I definitely trained in the pool just in case.  Also, the Coalition was a charity I believed in and fundraising was a no-brainer when asking for support from people who live in the Buzzards Bay watershed.  

BBC: How does it feel to be heading into your 20th Swim? 

CP: It’s hard to believe this will be #20 but looking back a lot has changed since my first swim.  Fund raising is MUCH easier now than back then, when I went door to door with paper donation sheets asking for support.   Though it was never unorganized, the Swim is even better now – the buoys marking the route are huge (easy to see with fogged goggles) and the on- and off-the-water support is fabulous.  Getting the timed result instantly beats waiting around for the times to be posted. 

BBC: Do you have any advice for folks who have always wanted to do the Swim, but have yet to dive in? 

CP: Many of us are inclined to underestimate our abilities when confronted with something new.  The swim is not hard.  It’s not a race (for most of us!).  With a little practice in the pool and in the Bay to get more comfortable in the water, you can think of it as you would a long hike – just one step (stroke) at a time and before you know it, you’ve done it!

BBC: Are there any stories or memories from past Swims that stand out in your mind? 

CP: My best story is from the year there were a ton of  non-stinging jellyfish hanging around the red channel marker.  We all swam through them but one swimmer said she swallowed one – yikes!

BBC: Why is it important to you to protect clean water in Buzzards Bay? 

CP: Everyone who lives on or near Buzzards Bay should be concerned about protecting clean water.  The watershed won’t stay pristine by itself when there are so many forces working against it (rising sea levels, nitrogen pollution, etc).   It takes time, effort, and money to ensure the viability of Buzzards Bay in both the near- and long-term.

BBC: What is your favorite Buzzards Bay “hidden gem?”
My favorite hidden gem is the east side of West Island.  I often circumnavigate West Island in my kayak and the east side looks like it might have looked hundreds of years ago when native Americans came there to gather shellfish and fish — or at least that’s how I like to imagine it to have been!  It is totally unspoiled and beautiful.
Categories: Events, On the Bay, On the Land

Working to Save Buzzards Bay

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported organization dedicated to improving the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

We work to protect clean water on the Bay and on the land: