43 trees to honor those killed in Oso mudslide

OSO — Forty-three trees are to be planted in a small grove east of Steelhead Drive.

They’re hardy evergreens that grow well in Pacific Northwest soil — vibrant even in the muddy, rainy season.

The trees will honor the 43 people who died in the Oso mudslide six months ago.

They are among the finishing touches on a new stretch of state Highway 530 through the site of the March 22 mudslide. Road construction is wrapping up weeks ahead of schedule. By the end of the month, the state Department of Transportation and contractor Guy F. Atkinson Construction expect that landscaping will be the only major work remaining along the rebuilt roadway.

The grove will belong to Oso, to the survivors of the slide and to the families who lost loved ones.

“We wanted to do something special for the community,” said Travis Phelps, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. “There’s obviously a lot of loss surrounding this project we’ve been working on.”

State employees consulted family members before most of the public meetings the department has held periodically since the slide. They brainstormed options for honoring the victims, and people liked the idea of a peaceful grove, Phelps said.

Survivors and victims’ family members are invited to plant the trees the morning of Sept. 27, settling the young plants into pre-dug holes near the neighborhood destroyed by the mudslide.

Atrovirens western red cedars were chosen because they grow well in the area and fit landscaping plans along the highway, Phelps said. Much of the landscaping has been planned with stability in mind, using plants that can thrive in the Stillaguamish Valley and help stabilize sloping terrain.

The trees chosen for the grove are sturdy and already 6 feet tall, Phelps said.

The planting event is open to survivors and family members only, but an event later in the morning is to be open to the public.

After the trees are planted, people are invited to walk the new stretch of road, see the trees and reflect on the past six months, according to WSDOT.

People can park at the Darrington Rodeo Grounds if they are coming from the east or at the Oso Fire Department if they are coming from the west. Buses at both locations are to shuttle attendees to the new highway.

The walk starts at about 10:15 a.m. Coordinators plan to have chaplains, trauma specialists and dog teams at the event.

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

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