Funding assured: the Mudslide memorial will be an unforgettable place


OSO – More than seven years after a mudslide destroyed a community in Oso and killed 43 people, the latest funding has been secured for a permanent memorial.

When Snohomish County Council approved the 2022 budget on November 9, it included $ 4.8 million that will be used to tell the stories of victims, survivors and first responders.

“The entire Stillaguamish Valley is still recovering from the effects of the landslide,” County Director Dave Somers said in a press release. “… The SR 530 Slide Memorial will provide families and our wider community a place to mourn, remember and honor. “

Since the 2014 disaster, a sanctuary has developed along what is now called the Oso Slide Memorial Highway. Photos and memorabilia adorn a grove of trees planted for each victim. Nearby, bronze mailboxes evoke the Steelhead Haven neighborhood that was engulfed by the hill in what was the deadliest landslide in US history.

Community members have been planning a larger memorial for years. But funding has been hard to come by.

“We know spaghetti feed and yard sales are not going to fund it when I see it someday in my life,” said Dayn Brunner, whose sister, Summer, was killed in the toboggan.

Brunner said the grove of trees meant a lot to the family. The one planted for his sister features horseshoes and was planted almost in the same spot where a wave of mud washed away his car.

Forty-three trees at the Oso mudslide site in 2014 are adorned with photos and memorabilia representing each of the victims. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

“Over time we knew we needed something bigger. Something where their stories would be told, ”Brunner told the Daily Herald.

The big financial boost means the place of mourning and remembrance will be transformed, possibly in time for the 10th anniversary of the event. Construction will be split between the next two summers.

“It was really in the air before that,” said Carol Ohlfs, chief planner of the Slide Memorial Project. “I always felt like we didn’t really know where the funding would come from.

Inside the new memorial, visitors will enter via a walkway into a circular paved staging area. From there, a trail will lead people through shelters dedicated to first responders and the 11 slide survivors, all nestled between dense native plants. Metal signs with names will honor the victims, and a nearby reflection pavilion will face the collapsed hill. This is a view that will slowly become obstructed as the trees begin to grow back.

Before returning to the parking lot and bike racks, the path will meander through a tree-lined “transformation zone”. Signs will tell the story of the land, the disaster and the response, as well as the tribal history of the region. A history post donated by the Tulalip Tribes will stand along the Whitehorse Trail.

Officials will also plant a special callery pear tree donated by New York’s Survivor Tree program. Each year, three saplings from the original tree that withstood the September 11 attacks are donated to communities suffering major tragedy. Snohomish County Parks officials have been cultivating the sapling since 2014, until it is large enough to plant in the ground.

Landslide risk assessments confirmed that the park can be safely located at the base of the hill, Ohlfs said. This is the right place for many reasons.

(Snohomish County Parks, Recreation & Tourism)

(Snohomish County Parks, Recreation & Tourism)

“This is the place where these family members died,” Ohlfs said. “This is where families come to visit the site, and people from all over the world come to see what happened there and watch it.”

Claudia Yaw: 425-339-3449; [email protected] Twitter: @yawclaudia.

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