HISTORY of FEIRO MARINE LIFE CENTER
Beginning in the early 1970s the community of Port Angeles worked to build a teaching laboratory and public aquarium on the new City Pier. Ground broke November 21, 1981, with the “lab” opening to the public the following year. The force behind this project was the late Arthur Feiro, an inspirational teacher and mentor, who envisioned the lab as a “…multifaceted, dynamic, living, breathing facility…(providing) a public display of marine organisms and ecosystems, a teaching laboratory, a public center for marine studies and a point of interest for tourists.”
For twenty-eight years Feiro had been supported financially, in an almost equal partnership, by the City of Port Angeles and Peninsula College until 2008 when funding cuts from both entities required the formation of the nonprofit. In the past six years, with funding support from foundations, an increase in fee for service programs, securing significant grants and contracts and a restructuring of the organization, Feiro has successfully transitioned into a nonprofit.
From 2008-2013, this young non-profit built its operating budget and personnel structures and maintained and strengthened the Feiro as a center for education. Notable accomplishments included:
• doubling public visitation to 20,000 per year, including 3,200 students
• expanded offerings for K-12 students, including programs for every 4th and 5th grade student in the Sequim, Port Angeles and Crescent Districts
• upgraded facilities and brand, including new exhibits, fresh paint and new logo and website
• expanded both public and private partnerships
• engendered good community support, regional awareness, financial investment, and continuing partnerships
Feiro Marine Life Center received the Coastal America Partnership award and the Puget Sound Champion award in 2012.
Program partners include: City of Port Angeles, Olympic National Park, NatureBridge at Olympic National Park, NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the North Olympic Salmon Coalition and Peninsula College, among others.
Feiro Marine Life Center exists in large part thanks to local teacher and biologist Art Feiro. We have visitors who proudly tell us that Art was not only their middle school science teacher in Port Angeles, but also their high school biology teacher and athletic coach, and again their beloved teacher and coach at Peninsula College. Art was the first instructor of biology at the college.
Art affected lives everywhere, from Port Angeles west to Neah Bay. Several summers were spent living in a small travel trailer near the beach at the far west end of the peninsula, spending his days with children, their families and teachers in the Makah Tribe.
In the belief that people will appreciate and take care of what they know and understand, Art began to develop an idea that became his passion until his untimely death of kidney disease in 1982 at age 52. With his wife Susan at his side, Art spent the rest of his life consumed with bringing his dream to reality.
Art wanted a place where people could spend time and experience life in the sea. He conceived of a place in Port Angeles, close to the water, and where, with the help of staff and volunteer naturalists, people of all ages could come to understand a part of the world that was difficult to visit in person. Over 10 years were spent talking with local service groups, writing grants and speaking to the state budget committee in Olympia. The Feiro opened on November 21, 1981. Unfortunately Art did not live to see its first summer season, passing away in early 1982. Susan Feiro was an active supporter and volunteer at the marine life center until her passing in 2013.
We are grateful to the Feiro family for continuous interest and support of the facility and its programs.