From left, Carolyn Butafco, Hannah Benoit and Rachel Easton provide information from their Harbor WildWatch station last month at Penrose State Park. Photo by Steve Whitford, KP News

Gig Harbor’s Harbor WildWatch program not only serves Gig Harbor, it is also an important part of life on the Key Peninsula.

The organization was created in 2004 by Dee Dee Howser of Gig Harbor and has since grown into a volunteer organization of some 60 members.

WildWatches’s calling is for marine environmental education and the preservation of nature’s bounty.

The organization features five basic programs. “Get Your Feet Wet” occurs at local beaches and displays touch tanks filled with local animal, fauna and other marine objects. Guided tours of intertidal zones are also available.

The “Pier into the Night” provides viewing of marine specimens via use of submersible lighting. Harbor Outreach Program provides classroom science for K-8 students. “Explore the Beach” offers in the field courses for K-20 students, and for children ages 8 to 12 there is the “Sea Star and Beyond” program, a three-year course in junior naturalist training.

Though founded and physically located in Gig Harbor, many of the Harbor WildWatch activities occur on the Key in places like the Purdy Spit, and Penrose State Park.

Many of the people who make Harbor WildWatch work are Key Pen residents who includes president Joyce Murray, volunteer chairperson Cheri Patch and program coordinator Rachel Easton.

On July 11, Harbor WildWatch presented a Get Your Feet Wet program at Penrose State Park.

The group uses a blue canopy as its trade mark, and to make them easy to find on the beach.

Under it reside several touch tanks of aquatic interest such as black crab, moody chitons and sand dollars.

Easton, along with Liz Svigah and Holly Pierce provided enlightenment and entertainment, teaching proper beach etiquette, as to what you should and should not touch in the intertidal zone.

Pierce, 9. of Pulallup –– part of the Junior Naturalist program –– was busy displaying an empty limpet shell that was now a home for barnacles.

Pierce said she enjoys her work immensely.

“I love nature and this way I get to help the ocean,” she said beaming a smile. Her mother, Liberty Pierce is delighted with the educational opportunities that Harbor WildWatch provides.

“The youth programs are excellent with lots of hands on training and it’s very nurturing,” Liberty Pierce said.

WildWatch moved to its new location on July 30. It’s now located at 3207 Harborview Drive in Gig Harbor. For information call (253) 514-0187 or visit

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