Gateway: News

Harbor WildWatch puts down roots downtown

Zach Howlett and his son, Cedar, and daughter Levity check out sea creatures in touch tanks with Harbor Wildwatch program coordinator Rachel Easton at an event in Skansie Brothers Park.
Zach Howlett and his son, Cedar, and daughter Levity check out sea creatures in touch tanks with Harbor Wildwatch program coordinator Rachel Easton at an event in Skansie Brothers Park. Staff file, 2014

There’s something cooking in the Skansie House kitchen.

Harbor WildWatch will open a new interactive laboratory in the house on Wednesday (Aug. 12). On Tuesday morning, science coordinator Stena Troyer and program coordinator Rachel Easton were hard a work setting out tools and hanging up lab coats in anticipation of visitors.

It’s another way the nonprofit is making use of its downtown home.

“The kitchen has been a no-man’s land,” Troyer said. “This is our way to completely utilize the Skansie House.”

The laboratory set-up comes right at the one-year anniversary of the nonprofit’s occupation of the historic house. After moving in on a one-year lease last summer, the city recently approved a new three-year lease for Harbor WildWatch.

Harbor WildWatch benefits from the visibility the house provides, but it also benefits from the convenient location. Many of Harbor WildWatch’s programs are based on Jerisich Dock and in the Skansie Brothers Park area.

“Being here is huge for the money savings (piece), as well as the presence here,” Easton said.

What used to be a trip that included driving back and forth from storage units and a private office is now an easy walk across the grass. The house also draws in visitors to the rotating exhibits in one of the front rooms, often after demonstrations on the dock and in the park.

“This really drives our numbers up,” Easton said.

The hope, Troyer said, is that the new laboratory element will increase the number of regulars stopping by the house.

Higher numbers are a very good thing for Harbor WildWatch because attendance can translate to grant funds. It also helps the nonprofit’s mission because it brings people in off the street who might not know about stewardship of the local marine life.

“That’s a win for us,” Easton said. “That helps Puget Sound. Education is the key for us.”

That mission to educate is part of Troyer’s lab curriculum. First up is an experiment that teaches one-off scientists of all ages about the way the Puget Sound was formed with glaciers. The experiment utilizes clay and ice cubes.

Troyer said the goal is to utilize important lessons that are also fun. Troyer, 25, studied biology at Pacific Lutheran University. She wants to implement a program that is based in “real science” and isn’t just a one-off activity.

The Harbor WildWatch exibits and activities are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. There is no cost for admission. The activities are located in the Skansie Brothers House, which doubles as a Gig Harbor welcome center, along Harborview Drive in downtown.

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155

karen.miller@gateline.com

@gateway_karen

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