Sometime this summer, maybe the latter part of August, intrepid hikers making the trek up Mount Peak will be in for a towering treat.
A replica of the historic fire lookout tower that graced Enumclaw’s iconic promontory has cleared the regulatory hurdles and, with money in the bank, everything seems to be coming together.
Doug Borst, one of the seven principal members of the Mount Peak Historical Fire Lookout Association, said construction is expected to begin in June and it’s hoped everything is completed during the early part of August.
Once finished, the replica tower will welcome visitors who will be able to climb the 47 steps from the peak of The Peak to the tower’s cabin. It’s meant to be an awe-inspiring experience with places to relax both inside the cabin and on the surrounding catwalk.
The tower project, now five years in the making, cleared a major hurdle in March when tower boosters hosted representatives from three construction firms. Each examined the area, considered all factors and submitted a bid.
The nonprofit Fire Lookout Association decided to go with Pease and Sons, a firm out of Tacoma. Borst said the committed was looking for someone with “a passion for the project” and found Pease to be the best fit.
Also, it seemed the other bidders wanted to build the tower from scratch at its location atop Mount Peak. Pease promoted an alternative that found a willing audience: Pease will construct three sections of the tower on a large, empty piece of land midway up the south side of Mount Peak. Then, in a dramatic display that should be visible for miles, a helicopter will hoist the sections from the construction site to their final resting place. A prime benefit of that plan, Borst said, is that the peak will not be disrupted nearly as long.
Building a lookout tower in a rugged location was viewed as an expensive proposal from the start. But, as has been well documented, the price of construction materials has jumped dramatically.
Original estimates were in the half-million mark but the cost is now pegged at $600,000, at least. That has made things mighty interesting for the organizing committee, Borst said. They received a state grant of $373,000 and two grants from King County that total $260,000.
While those grants – combined with smaller donations and fundraising efforts – appear to cover the cost, Borst explained that there can always be unanticipated expenses.
For that reason, the tower booster group will continue fundraising this year. A major effort will be selling small plaques that will grace the front of each of the tower’s 47 steps. Those will go for a $1,000 donation.
During the pre-technology days, this part of the Pacific Northwest was protected by firewatchers who staffed four towers scattered throughout the woods in the general Enumclaw area. Mount Peak was home to three towers through the years, with the last one decommissioned in 1965.
Soon after, for safety reasons, it was torn down.
The tower now set for construction will resemble Mount Peak’s final tower. That means a footprint 14 feet square and a tower that measures 25 feet to the viewing platform and totals 40 feet in height.
One difference will be in the construction materials. Rather than wood, the replica tower will be made of steel to help with durability and guard against vandalism.
While the tower will immediately become the property of King County Parks (Mount Peak itself is a county park), the tower booster group has agreed to provide basic maintenance for a decade.