The massive Oso landslide killed 43 people, caused extensive flooding, and destroyed a key highway north of Everett in 2014, pushing the communities of Arlington and Darrington to their breaking point.
For months, grieving residents and community leaders remained so immersed in the search and recovery demands that nearly everything else had to be put on hold. That’s why, when they were invited to participate in a national competition that could funnel up to $3 million or more toward desperately needed economic revitalization efforts, Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert was practically on the verge of tears, again.
“It was this rare opportunity but we had no one left,” Tolbert recalls, explaining economic revitalization has been a top priority for the once-thriving logging communities trying to forge their place in Puget Sound’s ever-expanding urban reach. “It couldn’t have come at a worse time. Our capacity was tapped.”
At Washington State University offices in Seattle, Everett, and Pullman, though, an idea was taking shape. The University already was assisting with various recovery efforts, and it sent a team from WSU Extension to help with the competition as well.
What followed was a joint Arlington and Darrington entry that has survived two elimination rounds, already brought in more than $150,000 in grants, and is among just eight of the more than 350 original entries still in contention for the top prize.
“I never, ever had any inclination of the resources that were available at my fingertips,” says Tolbert.