For the last two years, the annual return of salmon to the Puyallup River Watershed has been a chance for the Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation (PHHF) to educate families and children about the salmon life cycle.
For PHHF’s third annual Salmon Homecoming, bringing awareness to salmon is more important than ever.
Salmon population has been dwindling in recent years, according to Georga Prossick, founding director and president of PHHF.
“It’s important to keep our children educated,” said Prossick, adding that there are “signs on the trail so that anyone can come through and be informed.”
The hatchery’s trail leads to Clarks Creek, where visitors can watch salmon spawn at the celebration. While the creek is about three miles long, there’s only about 200 feet left for spawning due to the amount of silt that can smother eggs or clog gills.
Along with silt from from construction, other pollutants can pose a threat to the creek, from garbage and metals to dog and duck droppings — which is why it’s important not to feed the ducks too much, Prossick said.
“Some kids tell their parents, ‘Don’t feed the ducks!’” said Prossick.
Aside from watching the salmon up at the creek, this year’s Salmon Homecoming provides tours around the hatchery and activities for children, including the Salmon Olympics, where kids compete in physical activities.
There will be live music and a DJ, said Prossick, and a food truck will provide salmon wraps and salmon barbecue.
The first Salmon Homecoming welcomed around 500 people. Last year’s celebration saw around 1,000. According to Prossick, some are predicting as many as 2,000 at this year’s event.
“We like to have people come when they can see the whole cycle,” Prossick said. “We’ve had so much luck and have met so many great people.”
Fish hatchery specialist Ben Lowery will be present at the event. Lowery manages how much the fish in the hatchery’s pools are fed and keeps track of their growth rates.
“It’s fun to have the kids come out and feed the fish and ask questions,” Lowery said.
Watershed education remains the main goal of the Education Center at PHHF, which was established in 2014 and invites children from all over the area for tours of the hatchery.
“(The kids) get so excited about everything,” Prossick said. “Not all (local) children get to be able to see outdoor things.”
This year’s free event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 1) at the hatchery on 1416 14th Street SW, Puyallup. Overflow parking is available at the Puyallup Community Church at 1218 9th Avenue SW.