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Nov 22

Chum Fest Walk 2023

Posted to Conservation Corner by Laura Wagner

On November 18, Pierce Conservation District attended the Gig Harbor Chum Fest. The event was a great success, with 203 total visitors coming to our tent for some educational fishy fun!

The vlog posted to our Instagram Reels showcasing the day of fun at Chum Fest 2023, featuring two pictures by Julie Ammann

What is Chum Fest?

Chum Fest is an annual event near the Harbor History Museum to celebrate the return of chum salmon to Donkey Creek. These celebrations are cohosted by the Harbor History Museum and Harbor WildWatch. This year, due to construction, it turned into a "Chum Walk" along the gravel path that runs behind the museum, featuring 7 participating organizations with their own canopied activity stations. 

Participants started at Austin Park where they received a "Salmon Passport". To fill their passports, they travelled to different activity stations of hands-on learning opportunities like collaborative salmon art, salmon bracelet making, facepainting, and Pierce Conservation District's "Salmon Survivors Game". At the end, visitors turned their passport in to the Harbor History Museum front desk to enter a drawing for a salmon-themed prize.

Fishy Fun with Pierce Conservation District

At Pierce Conservation District's canopy, our main attraction was the Salmon Survivors Game: a fun game that teaches players about the many complications that salmon can encounter throughout their life stages. To play, you are given a cup of 1000 salmon eggs, represented with beans, to take care of. Then you move between card stations and roll a wooden die that tells you what fraction of your fish die and how. By the time you make it to the spawning phase of life, you should have 1-3 salmon left! Regardless of the number of survivors, all players are awarded a small wooden salmon token that they can color and make into a magnet or even hang it somewhere in their house as a little ornament.

Apart from the Salmon Survivors Game, we also had another table with two salmon plushies, vials showcasing real salmon early life stages, PCD pamphlets, and some "Salmon Steward Pledges". After learning about some harsh factors that influence salmon ability to survive, visitors could take a pledge to protect salmon habitat by checking provided methods or writing their own ideas. 

Two kids look at the early salmon life stages vial. PCD worker bends over to explain it to them!

Two kids look at the early salmon life stages vials as Laura explains them, moment captured by Julie Ammann

Chum Fest Visitors

Pierce Conservation District had so much fun meeting all 203 visitors to our tent! The attendees of Chum Fest included a wide range of people: entire families, visitors from inside and outside of Pierce County, educators, a WDFW worker, and more. Pierce Conservation District Board Member and local Gig Harbor photographer, Julie Ammann, even came out to visit the Chum Fest event. We were so excited that she could attend the event and chat with us!

We had so many memorable interactions at the event. One visitor was a salmon biologist visiting all the way from Alaska! She was so enticed by the Salmon Survivors Game that she hoped to use it in her Alaskan community. We also had the opportunity to speak with an elderly Pierce County resident who shared a story about her growing interest in camas, a fun flowering plant native to many Puget Sound spaces!

One of Laura's favorite interactions was with a young toddler. She was just barely tall enough to notice that there were soft salmon plushies on our table. As a toddler, of course you have to grab one! Likely out of courtesy to our setup, her mother tried to stop her from taking one. However, Laura said it was ok if she played with the salmon for a while. After some quick discouragement from trying chew the salmon by the mother, Laura came over and played with the salmon plush with the toddler. Together, they played by making the salmon do swimming motions, the little girl mirrored some of Laura's reactions or motions, she petted the salmon, and they took turns giving the salmon a big hug. 

Our time at Chum Fest reminded us that getting the Pierce County community excited about salmon and their habitat is something for all ages! You could be listening to a story from an elderly person about native plants that provide good habitat and water quality for salmon. You could be talking with an educator about her curriculum surrounding salmon. You could be using a salmon plush to play with a toddler. Regardless of who you're talking to and what you're doing, all efforts matter in raising awareness about these beautiful fish that we share habitat with.

Sep 27

Students (and Salmon) Return to Hatchery

Posted to Environmental Education by Gracie DeMeo

The PCD education team is gearing up for another busy fall season! This year, every 4th grade class in the Puyallup School District will visit the Puyallup Hatchery for a field trip. PCD is partnering with the Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation to make this happen. The students will get to tour the hatchery, see eggs and alevin up close, and view spawning salmon in Clarks Creek. We're also excited because this is the first program our new volunteer docents will help with! These docents will help us reach more students and get more kids outside to learn about the environment. Visit our Volunteer Docent Program to learn more about this fun new opportunity to get involved with PCD.

A person with a PCD hat on points at a map of Puget Sound, showing salmon routes to 4th graders.

PCD AmeriCorps Member Maddie Snook shows salmon migration routes to 4th graders.
Nov 27

King Tides Wash In With Winter Holidays

Posted to Habitat Improvement by Gracie DeMeo

by Mary Krauszer

‘Tis the season for high waters on the Puget Sound shoreline, which bring with them the opportunity for action to prevent marine pollution and build resilience on our shores.

King tides - the highest astronomical tides of the year – can exceed 15 feet in elevation on our South Sound shorelines. You may recall the king tide of Dec. 27, 2022, during which a high tide cooccurred with a low-pressure weather system, causing record-breaking water levels at tide stations throughout the South Sound. This winter, you can expect king tides Nov. 28-30, Dec. 15-17, and Jan. 14-16.

Tide washed in to the edge of a sand spit.

High water at the Tacoma DeMoly Sandspit Nature Preserve, Fox Island, during a 2022 king tide.

During king tide events, water can reach high onto our shoreline properties, increasing marine pollution and causing episodic erosion. We can prepare for king tides by making sure all floatable materials - like kayaks, lawn chairs, and landscaping equipment - are moved far enough away from the shoreline so they won't be washed away and become marine trash. We can also protect our properties from exacerbated erosion through conservation management practices. Proper management of upland drainage, paired with enhancement of protective native vegetation, can help mitigate risk from high water events on shorelines.

If you are interested in learning how you can take a proactive approach to protecting your property during king tides and all year round, get in touch with our Shore Friendly program, which assists marine waterfront landowners in stewarding shorelines to help protect their property and the health of Puget Sound. 

You can plan ahead for high waters by tracking predicted king tides on the WA Sea Grant King Tides Calendar.

Tide coming in at the edge of Owen Beach

Tide washing in at Owen Beach, Point Defiance Park