About a dozen metal sculptures adorn the front yard of the home of Burt Mason and Mary Saltwick in Freeland on Whidbey Island. The couple are accustomed to finding strangers in their yard and taking photos. They got the sculptures during vacations in Tucson, at a store that imports handcrafted figures from Mexico. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

About a dozen metal sculptures adorn the front yard of the home of Burt Mason and Mary Saltwick in Freeland on Whidbey Island. The couple are accustomed to finding strangers in their yard and taking photos. They got the sculptures during vacations in Tucson, at a store that imports handcrafted figures from Mexico. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Purchase Photo

Dinos on Whidbey? This Freeland yard is a Jurassic Park

These creatures from long ago won’t chomp or chase you, and you’re welcome to visit.

FREELAND — It’s the Jurassic Park of Whidbey Island.

What’s up with that?

Driving along Scurlock Road near Bush Point, a 16-foot brontosaurus turns heads.

And it’s not alone.

A stegosaurus, triceratops and T. rex are among the herd of eight dinosaurs in a family’s front yard. With the open water of Admiralty Inlet as a distant backdrop, you can almost imagine the creatures roaming the Earth in prehistoric times.

“I look out there and think back to what went on 65 million years ago,” said Burt Mason, one of the Homo sapiens living in the house.

Mason and his partner, Mary Saltwick, bought the rusty metal sculptures during vacations in Tucson at a store that imports handcrafted figures from Mexico.

The couple started small about five years ago.

A Tyrannosaurus rex appears to eat a car at a home owned by Burt Mason and Mary Saltwick in Freeland on Whidbey Island. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

A Tyrannosaurus rex appears to eat a car at a home owned by Burt Mason and Mary Saltwick in Freeland on Whidbey Island. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

“Our first one was a little elephant,” Saltwick said.

It was bubble-wrapped and rode the 1,560 miles home from Arizona in the back of their Subaru hatchback.

The elephant looked a bit lonely in their Whidbey Island yard, so on the next trip to Tucson they picked up a buffalo and a rhino.

After that came the dinosaurs, a lifetime interest for Saltwick, 77, and Mason, 81.

Saltwick’s fondness for dinos started in the 1970s, when she had four young kids to entertain.

Mason and dinosaurs go way back.

“I was a little kid in Philadelphia going to the museum and collecting bronze dinosaurs,” he said. “I’ve been interested in Jurassic Park a long time.”

At left, Leo Zucca, 4, of Everett visits the yard of grandma Mary Saltwick in Freeland on Whidbey Island. He’s seen here with Momo Brown, 5, the reporter’s granddaughter. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

At left, Leo Zucca, 4, of Everett visits the yard of grandma Mary Saltwick in Freeland on Whidbey Island. He’s seen here with Momo Brown, 5, the reporter’s granddaughter. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

The Tucson emporium had the goods for Mason to supersize his childhood collection.

“Every year they had bigger and bigger dinosaurs,” Saltwick said. “Burt always goes big.”

Too big for the Subaru. Most had to be delivered.

The latest acquisition was the brontosaurus, spanning 20 feet. (Disclaimer: It might be an apatosaurus or a brachiosaurus. A paleontologist was not consulted for this story.)

The Big One. That’s what Saltwick calls it.

“They took the neck off and put it on a flat bed truck,” she said. “Everywhere they stopped, people wanted to buy it.”

It’s not for sale.

A view of the Freeland dinosaur yard through a car window. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

A view of the Freeland dinosaur yard through a car window. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Which brings up cost. How much are these things anyway?

“We don’t talk about the expense,” Saltwick said.

She doesn’t worry about the sculptures getting stolen.

“If someone goes through the trouble, getting a truck big enough to haul them, they are welcome to it,” said her son, Erik. “If they put that much effort into it, they really want it.”

Erik, who lives at the Freeland home, is the curator of the dinosaurs.

Weather is more of a threat than theft.

“Some of the smaller ones, when we got the big wind gusts, would roll across the lawn,” Erik said.

Heads rolled, too.

“The neck of The Big One had to be repaired because the wind kept whipping it back and forth. We had to take if off and get it re-welded,” he said. “So we had a headless dinosaur for about three months.”

He staked the sculptures into the ground with rebar.

There’s a lot of thought that goes into the display.

“I oriented them to where people will get the full effect of them,” he said.

COVID-19 thwarted the trips to Tucson and put expansion on hold.

“We have room for one more,” Mary Saltwick said. “I have a raptor that I like down there. He’s looking up from the watering hole where he’s been drinking, and his face is turned like he heard something.”

Dino-mania is also happening in Olympia, where a bill to name Suciasaurus rex as the state dinosaur is awaiting a vote in the House. The dinosaur bill got through the House last year but went extinct in the Senate.

Researchers in 2012 found in the San Juan Islands a fossilized chunk of a left thigh bone of Washington’s only known dinosaur. About a dozen states have state dinosaurs.

Meantime, get your fix here.

Mary Saltwick welcomes people stopping by.

“We have people with little kids come up,” she said.

Big kids, too.

“I got a new camera. I was driving around and happened to see this,” said Bill Lesar, a tourist from Olympia who was exploring the island after visiting Fort Casey State Park, 15 miles to the north.

The Saltwicks invited him into the yard.

Mary Saltwick’s daughter, Sofie Zucca, a teacher at Voyager Middle School in south Everett, was visiting that day with her son, Leo, decked out in dino boots and jacket. Leo, 4, doesn’t have prehistoric creatures in his yard at home, only in his toy box.

Talk about a cool grandma.

“We thought it was kind of fun when she got a couple,” Zucca said. “Then there were five more. It’s cool.”

You might say her mom isn’t one for moderation.

Mary Saltwick and her late husband, Richard, were in the South Whidbey newspaper in 1974 for having twins twice. Twin boys, Erik and Peter, came first and three years later there were twin girls, Sofie and Marie.

The odds of having twins are about 1 in 250.

The odds of having eight dinosaurs in your yard are off the charts.

The Dinosaur Yard

I took my 5-year-old granddaughter, Momo, to see the dinosaurs.

She filed this report:

By Momo Brown

WHIDBEY ISLAND — What’s your favorite dinosaur?

The yard had eight dinosaurs. The long neck one was taller than anyone else.

The only one I know is T. rex. Their teeth are really sharp.

They aren’t real dinosaurs. I saw screws.

There was also an elephant, and a hairy animal, and I forget what the other thing was so I’ll just call it a dolphin.

Everybody might not want dinosaurs in their yard. Grandpa doesn’t.

And that’s all about the dinosaur story.

The End

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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