Mission Nonprofit Spotlight: Puget Sound Estuarium


Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that positively impact our communities. In May 2024, Mission Nonprofit host Deborah Vinsel sat down with Paris McClusky, executive director for the Puget Sound Estuarium.

The Puget Sound Estuarium was created in 2007 by the South Sound Estuary Association. According to their website, their mission is to, “foster learning opportunities that inspire people of all ages to connect with, protect, and enjoy the unique estuary environment of Puget Sound.” The Puget Sound area is the largest estuary by volume of water in the United States and is also the deepest.

“[It] came about out of an identified need to have not just a Marine Center in downtown Olympia, but a center that really focused on educating the public about our estuary system here in the South Sound,” shares Paris.

The Puget Sound Estuarium fulfills the mission with its interpretive center, which includes educational content focusing on the challenges surrounding the restoration and protection of Puget Sound. They have many programs and exhibits that seek to educate visitors – both local and those from out of the area. You can check out salt and freshwater tanks with aquatic wildlife. Ongoing event include tours and annual summer camps aimed at encouraging youth interest in STEM-related fields and preservation of our unique ecosystem in the South Sound.

“We’re an environmental education organization, so whereas you might see other organizations who do restoration work, you know planting trees, preserving land, we do a lot of education for youth and people of all ages around what those organizations do, their role in conservation, and also how people can plug in,” shares Paris. “So as an education organization, we have so many opportunities to really showcase the amazing work of our community partners in the field.”

Estuary Restoration Option for Downtown Olympia

“After years of scientific surveys and studies, they’ve identified the restoration option [at Capital Lake] as the option to move forward with,” shares Paris. That area, he continues, was originally an estuary. Capitol Lake was created in the 1950s, separating the fresh and salt waters with the Fifth Avenue Dam.  “Before then it was a free-flowing, intertidal system, you know, intertidal salt flats, salt marsh area, much like what you might see at Nisqually Delta,” he continues, “Although it’s unique in that it is now going to be an estuary in the middle of a metropolitan area, which is a very unique and compelling environmental project.”

The Puget Sound Estuarium also does a lot of work on water quality and diversity in the Budd Inlet and surrounding area. “The water quality improvement will happen over time with the restoration of that estuary and just restoring it to an intertidal system,” shares Paris.

For more information, watch the full video above or visit the Puget Sound Estuarium website.

You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 22 on Sundays at 3:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 10 a.m. You can also watch on TCMedia website, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thurston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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