Kids’ Oasis, a wooden castle playground adjacent to Mount Pilchuck Elementary School, is demolished on Thursday in Lake Stevens. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Kids’ Oasis, a wooden castle playground adjacent to Mount Pilchuck Elementary School, is demolished on Thursday in Lake Stevens. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Nothing lasts forever — Lake Stevens’ castle playground leveled

When it was built in 1992, Kids’ Oasis at Mount Pilchuck Elementary was unlike anything else.

LAKE STEVENS — Years of memories embedded in the sun-faded spires, talk tubes and wooden walls of Kids’ Oasis came crumbling down Thursday morning.

The unique playground was demolished due to the cost to make the necessary repairs to keep it safe, according to the Lake Stevens School District.

“It’s weird,” Lake Stevens resident Gabe Schmuck said, looking at the empty wooden castle Wednesday afternoon. “I figured it’d be here forever. And I know nothing lasts forever, but you get used to something being here and then suddenly it’s not — it creates a big hole.”

Schmuck, 36, still remembers his 8-year-old self struggling to climb from a tire swing onto the wooden fort, and as he grew up, bringing his younger siblings and nephews to do the same.

The wooden castle playground off 20th Street NE, near Mt. Pilchuck Elementary School, became a staple for many local families over its 29-year existence.

“I was in kindergarten back in ’93-’94 and I remember going down there,” said Michael Mashburn, longtime Snohomish County resident. “It’s just a cool playground.”

Less than a week before demolition began, Lake Stevens School District sent families an email and shared a statement on social media that said neither the district nor the city was able to absorb the costs of repairs, said to exceed $350,000. The district said playgrounds similar to this usually have a life expectancy of around 20 years.

“Additionally, due to liability issues, we are unable to have a community rebuild without significant oversight from the builder, which is also very costly,” the district wrote.

Late this summer, the district will launch a survey to gauge public interest in a replacement playground. No school district representatives were available to comment on the demolition.

“My sister-in-law sent me a screenshot of the email that the district sent out — it’s just kind of sad,” Mashburn said. “I know it’s a big deal for the community — to the Lake Stevens family.”

The name Kids’ Oasis came from Melissa Lee, a third-grade student at Sunnycrest in 1992, according to a clipping of the March 25, 1992 edition of the Lake Stevens Journal, shared by the Lake Stevens Historical Museum on Facebook.

“Melissa (Lee) says she got the idea while playing a board game with her dad. ‘I liked the meaning,’” the Journal reported.

Reached by phone in Oklahoma, Lee said she first stumbled upon the name after flipping through a dictionary and thesaurus.

“I remember being really excited,” she said Thursday afternoon. “I got some kind of certificate or something, and my picture was in the newspaper. It was a big deal.”

Lee’s entry was among 574 submitted by Lake Stevens students.

Costing around $150,000, the playground was built in 1992 in a joint effort between the school district, city, numerous community members and local businesses.

According to the Journal, everything about the wooden castle was unlike any other. The metal twist slide was imported from Europe and the walls of the castle were made of special dense southern yellow pine.

People of all walks of life rallied to raise money for its construction.

“Kids’ Oasis represents the best in a community, welding environmentalists with developers, Republicans with Democrats, newcomers with natives,” the Journal reported.

On Monday, Schmuck went out to the playground to photograph some of the placards honoring the families and businesses that donated or helped in the construction of the castle.

Among the names posted on the playground’s worn timber were former Superior Court Judge David Hulbert, the Mashock family, the Hargrove family, the Buzz Inn Steakhouse, Mt. Pilchuck Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, the former Timberline Cafe in Granite Falls and Craven Insurance.

Dozens of volunteers worked four- to five-hour shifts over a weekend to build the wooden castle, the Journal reported, with on-site meals provided by local stores and restaurants. Jay’s, the downtown grocery store, allowed volunteers to use their walk-in refrigerator to store the food.

Lake Stevens residents Sally Chafin and Neal Dooley were among those preparing food for the volunteers.

“I’ve never been a part of a community quite like that before,” Chafin said. “That grassroots kind of thing. Everybody brought in saws or hammers and their cupcakes and a fresh pot of coffee and they all got together and hammered and sawed — it was great.”

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Staff are evaluating two more light rail alternatives for the Everett Link extension. One would follow Interstate 5 north of 128th Street SW to the Everett Mall and back to the freeway. Another would go west of 128th Street SW to Highway 99 and north to Casino Road. (Sound Transit)
Snohomish County leaders reject light rail routes bypassing Paine Field

Those options weren’t what voters approved — and would be like “butchering” the plan, the Snohomish County executive said.

A Sound Transit train arrives at Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. (Sue Misao / Herald file) May 2019
Should light rail skip Paine Field and Boeing? We asked, you answered

More than 300 Herald readers responded to an online poll. Here are the results.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Highway 9 work could disrupt travel through Lake Stevens

Construction is set for roundabouts on South Lake Stevens Road and one at North Davies Road and Vernon Road.

Lynnwood City Council members, from left: Jim Smith, Shirley Sutton, Shannon Sessions, Josh Binda, George Hurst, Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, and Patrick Decker. (City of Lynnwood)
No penalty for Lynnwood council member’s ‘underinformed’ views on racism

The City Council didn’t censure Jim Smith after a report found he discriminated against a Black city employee.

All ears: Mukilteo couple provides surgery for kids born without ears

Dr. Prabhat and Trish Bhama are part of a HUGS volunteer team providing treatment for microtia in Guatemala.

(Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest - US Forest Service)
U.S. 2 reopens east of Index as Bolt Creek wildfire moves north

The highway was blocked off earlier this week as the fire spread.

People gather outside of the new Northwest Carpenters Institute building prior to a grand opening celebration Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022, in Burlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Building a workforce: Northwest Carpenters expand training center

About 160 Snohomish County tradespeople take the apprentice classes in Burlington center. There’s ample room to grow.

A Coast Guard cutter searches for a crashed chartered floatplane near Mutiny Bay Monday afternoon in Freeland, Washington on September 5, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
5 more bodies recovered from floatplane crash off Whidbey

About 80% of the plane, including the engine, was recovered using remotely operated vessels.

Conceptual rendering for a future section of Smokey Point Boulevard between 174th Place NE and 200th Street NE. (City of Arlington)
Plan seeks to transform Smokey Point Blvd. into ‘neighborhood corridor’

City officials hope roundabouts, sidewalks and more will turn 2 miles of busy road into a neighborhood street.

Most Read