Spring’s return a reminder that recovery remains for Stilly Valley

The first day of spring is rapidly approaching and so is the one-year anniversary of the devastating landslide that so affected the people of the Stillaguamish Valley. Last March, while I was enjoying an almost perfect spring day on the Stillaguamish River, just three miles downstream, a waterlogged mountain of mud, sand and timber was collapsing across our very river, taking with it an entire neighborhood and 43 lives in a matter of seconds.

History is filled with the stories of communities who came together heroically in times of crises, and Darrington and Oso are no exceptions. Both towns are logging communities whose livelihoods have been decimated by mill closures and cutbacks that have occurred as a result of the dwindling economy over the last several years. Unemployment is rampant here and the landscape bears many vacant homes and farms that have been foreclosed upon. Life has been tough on valley residents, some whose families have lived here for several generations. Many are on government food assistance, and also rely on the food bank run by tireless volunteers and generous donations from outside the valley. Methamphetamine use and its subsequent criminal activities has taken its toll on the community.

In spite of all this, when the mountain fell, everyone who could, worked together to rescue the living, recover the deceased and assist in the healing that is taking place to this day and will for some time to come. Many are coming to the realization that logging may not come back, certainly not the way it was, and are considering the benefits of a more local and sustainable economy. Plans are in the works in Darrington for a community garden and farmer’s market. Small permaculture farms and green energy systems are being developed, adding to the valley’s resilience. Efforts are underway to pave the last 14 miles of roadway on the Mountain Loop Highway, a connection that will provide access and “world class” scenic vistas to day-trippers from metropolitan areas, bringing much needed tourist dollars to the region.

On my frequent drives past the slide, I notice that the winter rains have deepened the drainage lines etched into the escarpment wall, and as the days lengthen and the soil warms, a carpet of green is beginning to conceal the gray clay, sand and mud deposited by the slide. Trees and shrubs that workers tirelessly planted during a very wet winter are beginning to leaf out, bringing life’s renewal to the devastated landscape. In a few short years, balance will be restored and the river will run clear once again as nature heals herself.

Our healing can only be accomplished by working together. With the help of public and private institutions, we who are fortunate enough to live in this most-beautiful-of-places can honor the lives of those lost by creating a thriving, more sustainable community for everyone.

Rick Knight is a resident of Arlington.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, June 6

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Lummi Tribal members Ellie Kinley, left, and Raynell Morris, president and vice president of the non-profit Sacred Lands Conservancy known as Sacred Sea, lead a prayer for the repatriation of southern resident orca Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut — who has lived and performed at the Miami Seaquarium for over 50 years — to her home waters of the Salish Sea at a gathering Sunday, March 20, 2022, at the sacred site of Cherry Point in Whatcom County, Wash.

The Bellingham Herald
Editorial: What it will require to bring Tokitae home

Bringing home the last captive orca requires expanded efforts to restore the killer whales’ habitat.

Comment: Biggest part of debt limit deal was the dealing

The White House and Congress showed they could find a path that can make real progress in reducing the debt.

Comment: Do we need refuge from drag shows and naked staues?

GOP lawmakers should know that most parents have bigger concerns than men in dresses and Michelangelo’s David.

Comment: To save Twitter, Musk should take it public

It goes against conventional wisdom, but then Musk has always defied how others get business done.

Comment: Milton Friedman was right; CEOs should focus on profit

Stumbles by Target and Budweiser show why wading into politics brings too many variables into the mix.

Editorial cartoons for Monday, June 5

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

A map of the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Set your muscle memory for work zone speed cameras

Starting next summer, not slowing down in highway work zones can result in a $500 fine.

File - A teenager holds her phone as she sits for a portrait near her home in Illinois, on Friday, March 24, 2023. The U.S. Surgeon General is warning there is not enough evidence to show that social media is safe for young people — and is calling on tech companies, parents and caregivers to take "immediate action to protect kids now." (AP Photo Erin Hooley, File)
Editorial: Warning label on social media not enough for kids

The U.S. surgeon general has outlined tasks for parents, officials and social media companies.

Most Read