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Overdue Renovations Become a Reality for 40-Year-Old Fish Ladder

By Janine Doyle posted 11-18-2019 09:50 AM


Fisher Ladder Concept View
Ballard Locks Fish Ladder Renovations Concept

The Fish Ladder Viewing Gallery at the Hiram M. Chittenden (Ballard) Locks in Seattle has not been renovated in over 40 years, despite being the site of approximately 2 million visitors per year.

Seeing the great potential of one of the Locks' most popular educational attractions, PLA member Discover Your Northwest (DYNW) decided to team up with the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and The Corps Foundation in order to raise the capital funds needed to renovate the structure.

Below is our interview with DYNW Executive Director Jim Adams about this project.

What prompted the Fish Ladder renovations project?

Adams: We've been partners with the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) since the 80s, and one of the main sites we've worked on with them is commonly known as the Ballard Locks.

The Fish Ladder Viewing Gallery was built in the 70s so people could watch the salmon migration through the Locks, but there haven't been any improvements since then, even though it's hugely popular. 

Seeing a great need for major renovations to physical structure, interpretive exhibits and educations technology, Discover Your Northwest decided to team up with USACE and The Corps Foundation in order to raise the capital funds to make this project happen.


How is Discover Your Northwest reaching potential donors for this project?

Adams: The Ballard Locks gets over 2 million visitors per year; it's the second most popular tourist attraction in Seattle. Because it's such an iconic place within a major city, that has made it easier for us to fundraise. 

Anytime we've been awarded a large grant, we've also gotten publicity, which encourages others to reach out and offer support. Signage at the Locks has been the biggest seller for the inscribed stainless steel salmon that will be installed on a Legacy Wall, recognizing individual donors.

We also sponsor free concerts at the Locks every weekend, which is another opportunity to spread the word.

Legacy Fish
Stainless steel salmon will recognize individual donors on the new Legacy Wall

How does DYNW work with USACE to figure out the best ways to support them, and vice versa?

Adams: Communication is key. The people you meet on the ground at Army Corps sites, their rangers – those are the people we interact with on a daily basis. Their goal in life is to educate people about the public lands they work on. They’re terribly committed to it, and the fact that we’re there to help them is exciting.

I'd say our relationship is very strong. In fact, we won the Partner of the Year Award from the USACE last year.

"If we didn’t have DYNW, this Fish Ladder Viewing Gallery would continue to deteriorate and become less visitor friendly, which would be met with a lot of public outcry from the public who love the site."
- Connie Grant, USACE Natural Resource Manager, Ballard Locks