Gig Harbor, Washington
Gig Harbor is the name of both a bay on Puget Sound and a city on its shore in Pierce County, Washington, United States. The population was 7,126 at the 2010 census.
Gig Harbor is one of several cities and towns that claim to be "the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula". Due to its close access to several state and city parks, and historic waterfront that includes boutiques and fine dining, it has become a popular tourist destination. Gig Harbor is located along State Route 16, about six miles (10 km) from its origin at Interstate 5, over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. During off-peak traffic times, Tacoma can be reached in five minutes and Seattle in just under an hour.
During a heavy storm in 1840, Captain Charles Wilkes brought the Captain's gig (small boat) into the harbor for protection. Later, with the publication of Wilkes 1841 Map of the Oregon Territory, he named the sheltered bay Gig Harbor.
Gig Harbor was officially incorporated on July 12, 1946. Commercial fishing, boat building, and logging dominated the economy until the construction of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940. Until then, the primary method of transportation between Gig Harbor and the economic center of nearby Tacoma was by steamship. Starting in 1836 steamships started plying the waters of Puget Sound and quickly developed into what was eventually dubbed "The Mosquito Fleet." Gig Harbor, isolated from Tacoma and Seattle by Puget Sound and the Tacoma Narrows, could not be reached by automobile or horseback except via a very long and arduous trip south around Puget Sound and Hammersly Inlet.
Gig Harbor and the surrounding area quickly began to develop as a suburb of neighboring Tacoma. First the area saw substantial residential development as families retreated from Tacoma in favor of the tree-lined neighborhoods and waterfront lots available on the Gig Harbor Peninsula. What had once been summer cabins became primary residences for people who commuted daily over the bridge to Tacoma. Medium sized housing development sprang up across the peninsula. The 1980s and 1990s saw substantial retail development near State Route 16 to service the growing residential population, shifting the economic center of Gig Harbor out of downtown.
Today, downtown Gig Harbor is a very active place for tourists with shopping, dining, and recreation on every block.
Commercial fishing is still of great cultural, if somewhat lesser economic, importance to Gig Harbor, and many commercial fishing boats make Gig Harbor their home port. Most, however, do not rely on Puget Sound to gather their catch, rather, finding it more profitable to venture north to Alaska to fish in the summer.
Jerisich Park, combined with the adjacent Skansie Brothers Park, is a large, open, waterfront space with grass, decks, benches, and a covered Pavilion for community events. It is also home to the Fisherman Memorial. This large bronze statue, which depicts a fisherman hauling in his catch, was commissioned in memory of Gig Harbor's fishermen, with special gratitude to those who lost their lives at sea. The parks often play host to fairs and events ranging from the annual Holiday tree lighting ceremony and Blessing of the Fleet, to musical concerts and art festivals. There is also a public use moorage dock where boaters can stay, free of charge, for a limited time.