MUKILTEO — Less than two weeks after Ethan Papenhausen completed his Eagle Scout project — a 16-foot bridge over a gully in Japanese Gulch Park — he got an email.
The bridge had disappeared.
Someone had unscrewed all the bridge’s pressure-treated wood planks, leaving only the frame.
Papenhausen went to check it out.
“It’s a different experience hearing about it from someone and actually being there,” he said.
“I’m just pretty saddened that a person would have to resort to this whatever their circumstances were. I hope we can catch this person.”
Karl Almgren, an associate city planner who had suggested the project to Papenhausen, said he learned of the theft when he began getting phone calls from avid park users reporting the wood on the boardwalk was missing.
A public works crew was sent to pick up the frame.
Deck screws were used to secure the wood planks. “Someone went out there and intentionally unscrewed them,” Almgren said. “Most of this was almost a conscious effort not to damage it, but to move it.”
Papenhausen still will get credit for his work. “He did complete the project,” Almgren said.
When considering his Eagle Scout project, Papenhausen knew he wanted to do something in the city’s Japanese Gulch Park.
He finally settled on building a 16-foot bridge over a gully — a platform to keep people out of the mud. It was built near the 19th Street trailhead.
Materials for the project had cost about $250. Papenhausen had set up a GoFundMe page for donations.
It took Papenhausen and a group of 10 friends about five hours to finish building the structure Aug. 19.
Despite his disappointment over the stolen wooden planks, Papenhausen, 15, a sophomore at Kamiak High School, said he plans to replace the missing boardwalk.
Almgren said there’s been an outpouring of support from park users. A local company has promised to donate the lumber.
As word spread, Papenhausen’s GoFundMe page quickly filled with donations and words of encouragement. As of Tuesday, $725 had been pledged.
“I think we’ll rebuild it and I think we’ll do something different,” Papenhausen said. “I’m not sure what, but something that can’t be stolen.”
Almgren said the city would work with Papenhausen on the new bridge “to make sure it stays longer than two weeks.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.