Gateway: Opinion

Stories, history lessons bring Guided Waterfront Tour to life

The rain started falling as I exited my car, so on my way out, I grabbed my umbrella. I was fortunate that I had it, as rain started coming down with a vengeance by the time I stepped onto the Maritime Pier. On this particular day, the weather had not dampened my spirit though, as I knew I was in for a special treat because I had just arrived to the pier for the inaugural Guided Waterfront Walking Tour. I was glad to have noticed that the weather also didn’t damper the eagerness and excitement evident on the tour guide’s faces.

The lighthouse is the starting visual point for this tour. I had to struggle to see it on this dreary day, as the sun usually lights the vista to help me to see it more clearly. The welcome beacon to the harbor is a fitting starting place for this event. After the guides shared a short story about Narrows Bridge and the area grocery store at the foot of the “People’s Dock,” we made our way to the breezeway at the beautiful Russell Family Foundation Building.

Enjoying a quick visual tour of the historic buildings alongside Harborview and Pioneer, our tour guide starts in on a rather unique story — one I’d never heard before. I grew more and more interested in this ghost story, as it actually had me shaking in my rain boots. Fascinated and a tad spooked, I had to ask for clarification on some of the “evidence.” I won’t tell you which building it is, in an effort to not spoil the surprise, but I’ll never look at this particular building the same!

Moving down to examine the Monkey Tree at Skansie Brothers Park, I learned the connection between Chile, our beloved tree, and Gig Harbor. I learned about the expansive lawns and what their original intention was. Now loved for the venues of many performances, fairs and fun, I learned that wasn’t what they were for 100 years ago.

The most surprising element came when we popped onto the public dock near Arabella’s Landing. Low and behold, we had creatures in the crab pot, raised up from the water, by our guide. A Harbor WildWatch naturalist (or HWW volunteer) will accompany all guided waterfront tours. In this instance, because we were a practice run through on a rather stormy day, we enjoyed examining the toy creatures pulled from the pot. Imagine sharing a live crab and other sea creatures with someone from out of the area who has never seen one before!

Moving on, we proceeded down to Eddon Boat Park and the Gig Harbor BoatShop — the grassy upland provides a nice mid-point for the tour. The stop gives participants a chance to check out the retail area, use the bathroom, view the Mussel Art or wander down to the public dock.

Shortly thereafter, we hit the tour again. Once at Austin Estuary, I enjoyed hearing about the Austin Family and the ties to the property. Of course I had heard this story before, but this time with more detail and a bonus of receiving environmental information while viewing the mouth of Donkey Creek. I was absorbed in the moment.

The tour continued on and wound under the Donkey Creek Bridge and landed on the viewing platform at the park. We were taught the special way to remember salmon which fill our local waterways (you’ll have to take the tour to find out the trick). Once to Bogue Viewing Platform, the sun came out and the tour wrapped up. As an added bonus, the trolley will be available to get you back to the Maritime Pier (.50 cent fare). Unless, of course, you want to wander back to the museum after a quick bite to eat or stop to shop. Whatever you decide, you mustn’t forget to take an iconic photo from the Finholm View Climb.

The free Guided Waterfront Walking Tours are brought to you by the Downtown Waterfront Alliance in partnership with Harbor WildWatch and Harbor History Museum. The tour will be offered rain or shine on most Saturdays at 10 a.m. during the summer, beginning on June 13 and running through Aug. 29. (The tour is not available July 4 or 25). Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Those who wish to take the tour should meet at the Maritime Pier 15 minutes prior to the 10 a.m. start time. Tour size is limited to the first 20 participants.

For more information, call (253)514-0071 or visit