Groups want to restore old school camp on Mountain Loop Highway

SILVERTON — There’s a shady spot by the river where a cluster of dark brown cabins sit empty along the Mountain Loop Highway.

For 55 years, the now vacant Camp Silverton-Waldheim was a mountain school where Snohomish County students learned about nature firsthand. The Mountain Loop Tourism Bureau hopes to reclaim the site and revive the school there.

They have partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and are rallying support from volunteers and potential donors, said Edith Farrell, an avid hiker and president of the tourism bureau. Fixing up and maintaining the camp won’t be cheap. If the bureau can’t afford to step in, some of the school buildings are to be demolished. A crowdfunding campaign on gofundme.com has generated less than $200 in the last two years.

“We’ve been told we need to raise $100,000 to be taken seriously,” Farrell said. “I’m trying to stir things up. I am looking for everybody’s help to scream and shout about this.”

The camp has a lot of infrastructure in place, including a water filtration system, electrical grid and phone line. The site has restrooms with showers and a mechanic’s shop, both of which need to be refurbished.

The forest service determined that the dining hall cannot safely and affordably be repaired, and the building needs to come down.

Two A-frame cabins also are slated for demolition unless the tourism bureau can drum up enough support to move them to another part of the property. They’re perched at the eroding edge of a stream and need to be moved or taken down before they slide in.

The bureau would like to keep the cabins, Farrell said. She hopes to find a contractor willing to donate time and equipment to move the structures by the end of the year.

“There’s a lot of great history out here, and you’re anchoring that with the outdoors,” said Randy Farrell, Edith’s husband and a member of the tourism bureau. “My mantra is rather than destroy it, let’s restore it.”

Camp Silverton-Waldheim served as an outdoor education camp from 1948 to 2003. Before that, is was a nursery where experts grew and tested different varieties of plants.

The Everett School District was the last to use the camp, but decided in 2003 to shift resources to the Lively Environmental Center in Mill Creek. The district still has a special use permit for the site, though the forest service is working to take over the property, Darrington ranger Peter Forbes said. The future of the site is still under discussion, and the Mountain Loop Tourism Bureau is a key piece of that planning, he said.

“Our hope is to have a facility available there that different people or groups could use, including groups that want to bring kids up for education,” Forbes said. “The forest service understands there’s a lot of passion around Camp Silverton. We appreciate that and we’re trying to honor that as best we can.”

The Everett School District estimated that catching and keeping up with maintenance at the camp would cost $100,000 annually, according to the tourism bureau. That’s where the group’s fundraising goal comes from.

“This is my legacy,” Edith Farrell said. “When I found this, I fell in love with it. I’ve always wanted to do a mountain school.”

If the camp can be restored, the bureau plans to coordinate with school districts, home schooling groups and recreational organizations to create an education program that stretches beyond the classroom. The site could be used to teach skills like water safety, plant identification or wilderness survival to children and adults.

Camp Silverton-Waldheim would be a refreshing change for students, Edith Farrell said.

“The camp held its own from 1948 to 2003, through wars and depressions and everything,” she said. “Now we have generations on their iPods. Get them off. Or better yet, bring your iPod or phone out here. But it isn’t going to work.”

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

To learn more:

Contact the Mountain Loop Tourism Bureau at 360-975-3654.

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