The massive slide that killed 43 people is shown in a 2014 aerial photo taken two days after it occurred near Oso. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The massive slide that killed 43 people is shown in a 2014 aerial photo taken two days after it occurred near Oso. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Oso slide memorial gets boost with $500,000 state grant

With the money, the county can continue work on a park where those who lost their lives can be remembered.

OSO — A $500,000 state grant to Snohomish County will cover continued work on the Oso Slide Memorial, a community-driven effort to create a lasting testament to those who lost their lives in a massive mudslide in 2014.

With the grant, the Oso Slide Memorial Committee and county will have netted $2.6 million in funds and donated services for a project entailing a plaza, pathways, interpretive signage, benches, landscaping and retaining walls.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said the funds, along with other grants and donations, will help to realize the vision of a permanent place to gather and remember “the lives that were lost, and the strength that grew from that loss.”

“The story of the SR 530 landslide is an important one to share,” he said. “It is a difficult story, but one of hope, community and resilience, and the memorial will be a place where people can come together to learn and find inspiration.”

The money comes from the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, which last month awarded 342 grants across the state to provide recreational amenities, conserve wildlife habitat and protect working forests and farms.

Overall, the agency awarded $9,620,951 to 14 projects in Snohomish County, including the Oso memorial.

Among them are $2 million to Snohomish County for renovating and enhancing Kayak Point Park near Warm Beach; $1 million to the city of Monroe to buy five acres for a community park in the North Hill neighborhood; and $224,841 to the city of Everett to build a multiuse sports court in Edgewater Park, with areas for basketball, pickleball and tennis.

In Oso, the memorial, a roughly $6 million undertaking, will tell the story of the devastating mudslide of March 22, 2014, which consumed a neighborhood and took the lives of 43 people. It is the single deadliest landslide in U.S. history.

It will be located on 13 county-owned acres off the former Steelhead Drive and along Whitehorse Trail. Most of the site will remain undisturbed, with four acres along the trail developed into a memorial park.

As envisioned, there will be a plaza and shelter along with a walking path on which interpretive signs will be installed, explaining what happened geologically, paying tribute to the responders involved in rescue efforts, telling stories of those rescued and memorializing those who died.

Elements of the community’s remembrance efforts are already occurring.

A year after the slide, 43 trees were planted to represent each of those who died. They’ve grown from knee-high seedlings to nearly 7 feet tall.

In 2019, on the fifth anniversary, a bronze sculpture of mailboxes was installed at what was once the entrance to the Steelhead Haven neighborhood, which was destroyed in the mudslide.

Also that year, a 23-mile stretch of Highway 530 between Arlington and Darrington was renamed the Oso Slide Memorial Highway to ensure drivers understand they are traveling on hallowed ground.

In October, two wooden portals went up on a trail alongside the highway, alerting travelers and hikers to the area’s special significance.

Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com; @dospueblos

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