Back in 2012, a group of three local women were inspecting the water quality of Clark’s Creek, which feeds the Puyallup Historical Fish Hatchery. Little did those three volunteers know, a simple task of monitoring water quality would lead to saving the historic hatchery in downtown.
“We walked through the hatchery and this employee says, ‘Are you here to save us?’ It turns out that Fish and Wildlife was about to ink a deal to give away the hatchery to a commercial entity, one of the largest in the world,” said Georga Prossick, one of the three women. “With this being in a residential district, there would have been trucks all over. We have 86 acres of beautiful property they would have closed off ... it would have been horrible.”
Prossick and two others banded together to stop the hatchery from being sold to the commercial entity.
“Basically three old ladies got together — and you don’t want to make an old lady mad — so we crashed the Russell Foundation banquet and handed out fliers, and told everybody what was going on and told everybody they were giving it away,” she said. “We went to the farmer’s market, and we were anywhere and everywhere trying to get the word out.”
The group’s hard work finally paid off, and on May 10, 2014, the organization was finally able to open an educational center adjacent to the hatchery, and the hatchery was able to be saved.
The hatchery and the Department of Fish and Wildlife now have a memorandum of understanding, according to Prossick.
“They have been super to work with, once we got it all planned out,” she said. “They’ve been just fabulous. One of the main focuses of the department is education. They know they’re losing that area, but they don’t have the funding to do anything about it.”
The education center is run entirely by volunteers, and is fully funded by grants from organizations. Most recently, the hatchery received a $5,000 donation from the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.
“We’re going to buy concrete benches to put around the grounds,” Prossick said. “We haven’t discussed with the Department of Fish and Wildlife where exactly they will go yet.”
The idea of the concrete benches is to provide a spot for visitors to sit and take in the hatchery and its surroundings.
The hatchery attracts local schools, scouting groups and adults.
“The main focus is getting the word out to different community groups, school districts and educators to offer tours free of charge, and (we’re) pretty much willing to schedule around the school schedule or whatever the group needs,” volunteer Vicky Hopp said.
Both Hopp and Prossick agreed that the joy and smiles they receive makes the long hours spent volunteering worth it.
“Nobody here gets paid — only in children’s smiles,” Prossick said.
“The joy of being involved with it is very exciting,” Hopp said. “It is about seeing the kids light up when the fish are flopping around in the stream. It’s fun and entertaining to see the delight and the joy it brings to people. It’s just a wonderful thing to be part of.”
The hatchery raises different types of trout and salmon. The trout, once big enough, are then put into lakes around Pierce and King County. The salmon are taken to a local river by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.
For more information on the hatchery, visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PuyallupHistoricalHatcheryFoundation?fref=ts.