OLYMPIA — A 23-mile stretch of Highway 530 between Arlington and Darrington is getting renamed to ensure drivers understand they are traveling on hallowed ground.
It will be known as the “Oso Slide Memorial Highway” to honor and remember the mudslide five years ago that claimed 43 lives.
The Washington State Transportation Commission unanimously approved a resolution renaming part of the highway Wednesday morning.
“For me it’s not just a highway and it’s not pavement. It’s sacred ground and that’s how it should be treated,” said John Hadaway, whose brother, Steven Hadaway, was among those killed March 22, 2014.
The renamed stretch will be between mileposts 22 and 45 with signs inscribed with Oso Slide Memorial Highway. The signs, which will be 5-feet-tall and 4-feet-wide, will bear the date and time of the slide and the number “43.”
They may be ready for an unveiling at a commemorative event next month. So too will be a planned sculpture of the mailboxes that once served as a landmark to turn off the highway into the Steelhead Haven neighborhood.
Hadaway, who led the renaming effort, fought through tears as he spoke to commissioners.
“It’s an emotional thing,” he said. “This is another stepping stone for us.”
He was one of five people who addressed the panel.
“This is still very raw. We will never have closure,” said Dayn Brunner who lost his sister, Summer Raffo, in the slide. She was driving on Highway 530 toward Trafton for a side job trimming horse hooves when her Subaru was buried in mud.
“Having the sign is another step in the process to make sure the legacy of our loved ones lives on,” he told commissioners.
Family members in concert with community volunteers and Snohomish County parks officials are working to create a lasting memorial on the site. It would be located on a portion of 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 the memorial, according to a fundraising packet. It is meant to be a place of remembrance for families, survivors and first responders, and a place where visitors from outside the area can learn what occurred from a series of informational panels.
Family members and volunteers are working to raise $6 million to design and construct the memorial. They’re seeking $3.5 million in the state’s 2019-21 capital construction budget, which is expected to be acted on in April.
Lawmakers in the 39th Legislative District, where Oso is located, said Wednesday getting the full sum will be tough.
“We’ll do our best to get what we can,” said Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan. “There definitely needs to be a place where people can go and learn what happened.”
Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, suggested one approach is to seek funding through multiple budget cycles.
“We’re committed to trying to help them get there,” he said.
Additional information on the memorial can be found online at slidememorial.com.