Harbor WildWatch to return to its roots

Wildlife nonprofit will move into the Skansie Brothers House on a 13-month lease

Staff writerJuly 9, 2014 

Zach Howlett, his son, Cedar, and daughter, Levity, check out sea creatures in touch tanks with Harbor WildWatch Program Coordinator Rachel Easton.


Harbor WildWatch is moving to the Skansie Brothers house.

The Gig Harbor City Council approved a lease with the organization on June 9.

When a request for proposals went out last year, Harbor WildWatch jumped at the chance to move from its current location at 3110 Judson Street into the historic home.

“Our mission is to inspire stewardship for the Puget Sound,” executive director Lindsey Johnson said. “We think that being at the Skansie House is going to allow us to provide those programs on a year-round basis.”

The Skansie Brothers House was renovated in 2013, and the city asked for tenants that would provide an education or cultural benefit for the city. The house was added to the city’s historic register in 2011.

When the search was on for a tenant, the city had a few rules: It wanted a nonprofit, one that would would promote Gig Harbor’s rich environmental and cultural history. It also wanted a group that would be compatible with the city’s festivals and events at the park and house.

Harbor WildWatch felt it fit the bill. After all, Johnson said, the group is usually involved in the city’s celebrations, and the mission of the organization is to make visitors aware of the environment in the harbor.

Moving to the house adjacent to Jerisich dock, Harbor WildWatch is returning to its roots. It’s been 10 years since the organization grew from one citizen’s desire to share the wonder of the area’s underwater residents. Animals were collected from under the dock and put in touch tanks, Johnson said. The organization gained nonprofit status in 2006.

That first year, Harbor WildWatch served about 250 people, Johnson said. This year, by her estimate, the 600 programs reached more than 30,000 residents.

The growing organization is pleased to have a new home, even if it’s a shared space. Inside will be a satellite visitor center to serve passersby and boaters. Harbor WildWatch is partnering with the city to staff it, Johnson said.

There will be a display room featuring rotating exhibits from Harbor WildWatch. Johnson said there will also be displays of shells and animal skulls. There’s even a possibility that local universities will partner to create exhibits.

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the new center is at noon July 30 at the Skansie Brothers House, 3207 Harborview Drive.

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155 karen.miller@gateline.com Twitter: @Gateway_Karen

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