By Pat Jenkins
The salmon won’t be all that return in the years ahead if the Eatonville Salmon Fest this Saturday has its way.
The day-long event, featuring family-friendly activities and entertainment, is being billed as a celebration of more than a decade of restoring and protecting salmon habitat in the Eatonville area.
Organizers and supporters also hope the festival will become an annual, regional attraction that will draw participants from as far away as they’re willing to come. In addition to awareness of salmon issues, the hoped-for result is an annual infusion of of visitors in the hundreds or more for the town.
“This is really exciting, because it shows that a community can really benefit from salmon restoration,” said Jon Bratholm, president of the Eatonville Chamber of Commerce.
The Nisqually Indian Tribe and the Nisqually River Council, leaders in salmon restoration efforts locally and regionally, are the host of the festival, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine.
Planned activities include music, lectures, food vendors and site tours. An underwater camera will help visitors get up close with salmon in the Mashel River.
“The recovery of Nisqually salmon is happening because communities
like Eatonville are coming together and making it happen,” said David
Troutt, chairman of the Nisqually River Council.
Organizers hope the inaugural festival will attract 300 to 500 people. One of the tours they’ll be offered will be of dozens of rain gardens around town at businesses and private homes. The rain gardens, plus five new ones that will be planted during Salmon Fest, are key elements in reducing flooding and pollution that can have an adverse impact on salmon habitat.
Other tours will feature:
• Logjams along the Mashel River, which is a salmon-bearing tributary to the Nisqually River.
• A planting demonstration.
• And training in NatureMapping, a hands-on environmental science and education program linking children, communities and professionals.
The manmade logjams, a project in recent years of the Nisqually Tribe and state agencies, are a refuge for salmon and help protect the river bank from erosion during high-water times of the year. They have become recognized as a preferred method for improving fish habitat and preserving shorelines.
Mill Pond Park and Smallwood Park will be among the locations of festival activities. Overflow parking will be available near Eatonville High School, with a free shuttle provided by Eatonville Family Agency. The agency is also co-hosting a salmon dinner open to the public on Friday.
The tribe is providing the salmon for the dinner. It also has budgeted $6,000 for the festival overall. Officials said the town is incurring no expenses for being the event’s site, other than in-kind work such as police services and use of the parks.
Other organizations playing a role in the festival include Northwest Trek, Mount Rainier National Park, Nisqually Land Trust, Pack Forest and Stewardship Partners.
Mayor Ray Harper said the town appreciates the help of the tribe and others in creating an event that could become a popular tradition. Bratholm seconds that.
“We’re celebrating all the hard work that our town and our neighbors
have done to restore salmon runs through our community,” Bratholm noted.