Portals crafted by volunteers up at Oso Slide Memorial site

Along a stretch of road now known as the Oso Slide Memorial Highway, volunteers on Saturday raised two hand-built wooden portals. Strong and exquisitely crafted, the Douglas fir structures will stand as part of a place forever honoring 43 people lost there.

In the week leading up to Saturday’s installation, members of the nonprofit Timber Framers Guild built the portals at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe. Coming from around the country, volunteers with the Rhode Island-based guild stayed at the fairgrounds while crafting the portals that now are at each end of the planned Oso Slide Memorial.

It was March 22, 2014, at 10:37 a.m., that the single deadliest landslide in U.S. history occurred along Highway 530 near Oso between Arlington and Darrington. Forty-three people died in the disaster that tested the strength and resilience of grief-stricken survivors, first responders, rescuers and a community that united in countless ways to help.

Snohomish County’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism has met multiple times with victims’ loved ones, survivors and responders to plan the memorial, which will cost an estimated $6 million to $7 million. Intended as a place of remembrance and education, its conceptual design ideas include components meant to tell the stories of lives lost, recognize heroic efforts in the tragedy’s aftermath, and interpret the geological event.

According to the county’s SR 530 Slide Memorial website, parks staff set aside seed money to begin the design process and fundraising is ongoing.

A volunteer with the Timber Framers Guild worked at the Monroe fairgrounds last week on a project to create two wooden portals for the Oso Slide Memorial. The portals were raised at the site of the Oso mudslide memorial on Saturday. (Timber Framers Guild photo)

A volunteer with the Timber Framers Guild worked at the Monroe fairgrounds last week on a project to create two wooden portals for the Oso Slide Memorial. The portals were raised at the site of the Oso mudslide memorial on Saturday. (Timber Framers Guild photo)

The portals project was supposed to happen in March, the sixth anniversary of the slide. It was delayed seven months due to the pandemic, said Rose Intveld, a spokeswoman for the county’s parks department. The Timber Framers Guild, she said, is “a really cool group from all over the country.” All volunteers, they’ve worked on other county projects.

Last year, with help from the guild, “we raised a picnic shelter at Lake Roesiger on Memorial Day,” said Thomas Hartzell, a senior park planner with the county. A frame just like the one used at Roesiger was cut by guild members during their recent visit, and will be used at Whitehorse Community Park in Darrington, Hartzell said.

Describing the portals, Hartzell said they’re made of Douglas fir from “our local area.” Oak pegs, with messages to deceased loved ones or signed by survivors, will be driven into the frame. “Typically you cut off the pegs so they don’t stick out,” said Hartzell, who took part in some of the construction. “These ‘stand proud,’ they didn’t cut them off, so the names could be seen.”

Meant to span the width of Whitehorse Trail, the portals are attached to steel I-beams that won’t show. They were raised Saturday using a telescoping boom and a forklift. The posts will be encased in gabion baskets — wire baskets filled with stones, Hartzell said. The portals are visible from the road, with the one on the east side more easily seen.

Hartzell gave a shout-out to the fairgrounds. “They worked in their facility and stayed there,” he said. And to build the portals “they used the goat barn.”

Many of the materials were donated, he added. Cascade Lumber in Stanwood is among the donors.

In 2019, the fifth anniversary, a bronze sculpture of mailboxes was installed at what was once the entrance to the Steelhead Haven neighborhood, destroyed in the mudslide.

About 20 Timber Framers Guild members, many from Oregon, left the area after Saturday’s project, Intveld said.

“We are doing this for Snohomish County, but also for the community of Oso and for the people that were lost and the suffering that has been left in the aftermath of that huge loss,” Mack Magee, executive director of the Timber Framers Guild, said in a statement released Friday by the county.

By donating labor and a week’s time, Magee said, “we are bringing the skills and knowledge that we have and using that to help a community to heal.” The guild, founded in 1985, is dedicated to the craft of timber framing.

“It’s traditional woodworking. A lot of craftsmanship goes into the building of these structures,” Hartzell said. “Each structure is a piece of art.”

Julie Muhlstein: [email protected]

Learn more or help

Information about the Oso Slide memorial is online:


And at: www.slidememorial.com/

Donations for materials, services or funding can be accepted through the Snohomish County Parks Donation Fund. For information, contact Sharon Swan, principal planner, 425-388-6616 or [email protected]