Family, trout group fund amphitheater at Fish Park

The Fish Park amphitheater is expected to be completed by January. The amphitheater, which will be free to use, is being built by donations from Trout Unlimited and the Aaron Waag Memorial Salmon Derby.                 - Mary McCluskey / Contributed
The Fish Park amphitheater is expected to be completed by January. The amphitheater, which will be free to use, is being built by donations from Trout Unlimited and the Aaron Waag Memorial Salmon Derby.
— image credit: Mary McCluskey / Contributed

POULSBO — As an eagle swooped down, perhaps looking for a fish for lunch, Teri Waag said she knew she was meant to help Poulsbo’s Fish Park amphitheater project get off the ground.

“For us, it’s become confirmation that Aaron will be with us forever,” Waag said. Waag’s son Aaron, died in 2011 when he fell from a crane while working as a tree trimmer. Aaron was a wildlife lover, a fisherman who particularly loved eagles.

“I feel encouraged every time I [see] an eagle now,” she said.

The donation is through the Aaron Waag Memorial Salmon Derby, set up by Aaron’s friends and family after his death. Part of the proceeds of the derby go toward salmon restoration and habitat enhancement, as well as tree service safety and Aaron’s daughter’s college fund.

An amphitheater in Fish Park will provide a place for classes or organizations to sit down, listen and learn about the area’s natural flora and fauna.Parks and Recreation Director Mary McCluskey presented $6,000 in donated funds and volunteer efforts to the City Council Dec. 5, thanking Trout Unlimited and the memorial derby.

The amphitheater project is the last big project in the park’s Master Plan, finalized in 2004, McCluskey said.

“This year, as a lot of things that I work on, the money appeared,” McCluskey said.

Paul Dorn, the Suquamish Tribe’s salmon recovery coordinator, was a key player in this project. Fish Park is where Dogfish Creek meets Liberty Bay, and is an important salmon run and spawning ground. All parties involved thought an outdoor classroom setting would be perfect next to Dogfish Creek, where residents, students, children and families can see ducks, eagles, fish and turtles in their natural habitat.

“The educational amphitheater is going to be an incredible spot for people to learn about the importance of habitat, to the critters we share the world with, whether fish, mammals, [or] if you just enjoy being out in the forest,” Dorn said.

Justin Foss is one of the organizers of the Aaron Waag Memorial Salmon Derby. A few months ago, Foss said they were looking to donate some of their proceeds locally, and when he contacted Dorn was told of the city’s desired amphitheater.

“[Dorn] put me in touch with Trout [Unlimited] that was willing to match the funds,” Foss said. “I met with the other guys, and thought it sounded really, really great.”

Chris Taylor, president of Trout Unlimited-North Kitsap/Bainbridge Island, also said Dorn informed him of the project and of Foss’ and the Waag family’s interest.

“It meshes perfectly with Trout’s mission,” Taylor said. “To conserve, protect, restore and educate about the local coldwater fishes.”

Trout Unlimited and the Suquamish Tribe teamed up in the past, restoring the chum salmon run through Dogfish Creek in the 1980s. Trout helped plant egg boxes at Webster’s Pond every year for 20 years, and now the salmon return each year on their own, Taylor said.

“That’s a pretty rewarding thing, to see the fruits of your labor returning every single year, it’s a beautiful thing,” he said — which is why Taylor wanted to help bring an educational venue to Fish Park. “When the amphitheater is built, it’s going to be an incredible way for the public to learn,” about salmon life cycles and habitat, Taylor added.

Foss and the Waag family chose salmon restoration as one of their missions because Aaron’s love of fishing. The Waags lived across the street from Fish Park, and Teri Waag remembered Aaron’s birthday parties at the park and fishing as he grew up.

“It’s an ongoing donation as long as the fishing derby goes, we need to keep Fish Park going,” she said. “I think it’s a beautiful area and to enhance it and continue the funding and educational outreach is just really important.”

Trout Unlimited donated $2,000 and the derby donated $4,000. McCluskey said volunteers are laying the stones for the seating, and the stones are coming from the leftovers of another city project.

“Just like every other piece of Fish Park, its taken quite a few [efforts] to get it together,” she said.

There will be no need to sign-up or pay a fee; the space will be available to any group. The Parks and Rec summer nature camps will benefit from the amphitheater, as well as any school field trip. McCluskey said she hopes it will be open in January.



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