New life for Green Gables shop on Mountain Loop Highway

VERLOT — A summer with no visitors to Gold Basin Campground, closed since March to assess mudslide risks, crippled the nearby Green Gables General Store.

The shop at 32518 Mountain Loop Highway, which sold food, drinks and firewood, closed at the end of September.

It wasn’t closed for long.

The Mountain Loop Tourism Bureau moved its visitor center from downtown Granite Falls to Green Gables in December. The center opened Jan. 2, but the rest of the store likely won’t be done until April. Bureau President Edith Farrell and Randy Farrell, the group’s secretary and Edith’s husband, aim to renovate the last-chance supply stop. They have a three-year lease.

The couple is changing some things at the shop to focus more on family recreation and education, Randy Farrell said. The store won’t sell beer and cigarettes anymore. Videos from the Granite Falls Historical Society play on a screen, and the Farrells plan to host hiking classes. Two Girl Scout troops are signed up for lessons this month.

The store will have fresh-baked goods, trail snacks, drinks and basic hiking and camping supplies. Eventually, the Farrells hope to have a deli with soups and sandwiches.

“We’ll have hot drinks in the winter and treats to get your energy up, and then cold drinks in the summer with more treats, because you’re still going to want those,” Edith Farrell said.

Gold Basin Campground remains a wild card. The U.S. Forest Service closed it after the March 22 Oso mudslide. Risks hidden in the steep slopes and river-worn banks around the campground hadn’t changed, district ranger Peter Forbes said. But after 43 people died in Oso, officials’ understanding of those risks changed. The campground remains closed while the Forest Service studies the terrain. They have not yet found a contractor to finish the research, but hope to have more information by summer.

“If there’s a possibility to reopen it, we would do that,” Forbes said. “It’s one of our most popular campgrounds in the forest, and certainly the largest.”

Meanwhile, the Farrells are cleaning and repairing around Green Gables. They pay for general maintenance, but hope to win outside money to fully renovate the building. The tourism bureau, including a four-person board of directors and a grant writer, sees the store as a historic landmark that could qualify for restoration grants.

Green Gables opened in 1936, while the Mountain Loop Highway was still under construction, according to a June 11, 1936, article in the “Snohomish County Forum.” The 30-by-40-foot log building had a dining area and tavern with guest rooms upstairs. Perched on an 80-acre property along the Stillaguamish River, Green Gables served lunches, sandwiches and chicken dinners on Sundays, according to the article.

Now, the river is fronted by private campsites and mobile homes. The store stands next to the road, bordered by a defunct fuel station and woods. The tourism bureau aims to preserve its history and create a hotspot for outdoor enthusiasts.

“It’s such a landmark, you can’t just not have it open,” Edith Farrell said.

The store is about a mile from the edge of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, on the way to attractions such as the old Monte Cristo townsite and Big Four Ice Caves.

The Mountain Loop Highway between Verlot and Barlow Pass is the forest’s most-popular stretch for hiking and camping, Forbes said, and Green Gables is the last supply stop. The forest service’s Verlot Public Service Center opens seven days a week in the summer and on winter weekends, but has information rather than supplies, he said.

When the service center is closed, Green Gables could be an important spot for visitors, Edith Farrell said.

“It gives outdoor recreationists a place to go where there’s someone who has knowledge and passion for the area,” she said. “And it’s the perfect spot because by the time people get here, they think they’re lost.”

People can call the visitor center at 360-691-3770 or got to www.ml-tb.org to learn about the tourism bureau.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439, kbray@heraldnet.com

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