Here’s the Story Behind Puget Creek’s Hidden Sculpture

Have you ever noticed the mysterious sculpture near the northern trailhead of the Puget Creek Natural Area? If not, don’t feel bad. It’s pretty easy to miss. If you have seen it though, you may not know the whole story attached to it. This sculpture is actually part of a multi-piece installation with identical markers in each of the 12 counties bordering the Puget Sound.

As you start on the trail along Puget Creek from Alder Way, there’s a branch off to the left. Just off that trail in the bushes is a nondescript granite dome with three inlaid bronze pieces. The two strips along each edge explain the basic point of the sculpture:

“To honor the caring citizens, governments, tribes and businesses of Pierce County—for lasting stewardship of Puget Sound. Puget Sound Water Quality Authority 1996.”

It has sat undisturbed for so long, the bottom few inches of the piece are buried in dirt. One side shows a stylized cedar tree with a pair of salmon on the opposite side. At the top is a bronze oyster shell with an engraved map of the Puget Sound. This illustrates the name of this sculpture, “Boundary Markers for Puget Sound.”

They were created by Sara Mall Johani and commissioned by the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team to commemorate the environmental stewardship of local watersheds. Puget gulch wasn’t always the beautiful pristine natural area that it is today. Most of the gulches along Tacoma’s waterfront were, at some point in history, used as drainage for all kinds of industrial and municipal waste.

Now it stands as another great example of what can be accomplished when we overcome the mistakes of our past and enact positive change for future generations.

  1. That walk in the Gulch was so amazing! You should have taken me in to see the sculpture. Cool story.

  2. I was just down there today and stumbled onto an injured bald eagle. Decided to check to see if anyone else stumbled upon it and found this article. Then thought “Wait a minute…I know this author!”. Good work man

  3. Most folks know about these markers by word of mouth or by sudden discovery….let us pray the vandals stay away.

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