Happy New Years to you from the Courier-Herald!

Happy New Years to you from the Courier-Herald!

The Courier-Herald’s Top 10 news stories of 2021

Let’s reflect on the last year, to better prepare for the year to come.

New Years — a time for champagne, midnight smooches, resolutions for the year to come, and, of course, reflections on the one we’re leaving behind.

It’s also when Courier-Herald reporters go through all the news articles we’ve published and pick out the stories we think meant the most to the Plateau. Some, you may remember. Others, you may need a refresher. But all of them help define the sort of community we are, and upon reflection, will help us determine the kind of community we want to become.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection this year, not least because I’m now a father to a six-month old, who most definitely enjoyed opening up his tissue paper-wrapped presents on Christmas more than what was actually inside them.

I’m finding that one of the most magical parts of being a dad is that, with my kid, I get to reconnect with my own childhood, which seems so far away at times: Legos and the Hardy Boys, juggling and magic tricks, stuffed animals and Pokémon — well, OK, I still play Pokémon, so maybe I didn’t leave my past that far behind.

But in many ways, I know I’ve lost touch with my inner child. Much of who I was has been boxed up and stashed in some forgotten corner in my home (and in my head) — painfully precious memories gathering dust, patiently waiting for a little boy to return, to bring them into the light and breathe life into them again.

I am no longer that little boy, free to feel and love and imagine as only a child can; life has taught me to hide myself away — whether to protect me from the world, or protect me from myself, I remain unsure.

Where I’ve failed, though, I can help my son succeed — to help him resist the slow erosion of childhood that knowledge and experience bring, so that he can freely wander the places I’m afraid to venture.

And in that light, dear reader, I hope you take the opportunity this coming year to reach out to the child you once were and reclaim what you, too, may have hidden away and left behind to survive the chaotic, traumatic process of “growing up.”

The world can be terrible indeed, but if we can rekindle the fire that once burned in every one of us — the forgotten knowledge that all can be loved, that everything is real, and that nothing is impossible — we can make it a better place.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

10. PLANS FOR REHABILITATION CENTER ON RURAL PARK PROPERTY CALLED OFF (FEB. 17)

The idea to open up a local rehab center was, as they say, dead on arrival. Redemption Rock Ministries, an Enumclaw faith-based not-for-profit, proposed opening the rehab center at a long-vacant home on Anderson Riverview Park off Mud Mountain Road, and discussed the proposal with the Enumclaw City Council during an early January meeting. However, as word of the plan spread on social media, backlash was fierce — a petition against opening the rehab center garnered more than 2,000 signatures by early February, leading Redemption Rock to take their proposal off the table.

9. NEW TRAP-AND-HAUL OPERATION ON THE WHITE RIVER IS LARGEST IN THE NATION (MARCH 3)

The trap-and-haul facility is designed to pull about 60,000 fish a day during “pink run” years from the White River and safely move them to a spot above Mud Mountain Dam. Pictured is Project Manager Leah Hauenstein explaining operations on the upstream side. Photo by Kevin Hanson

The trap-and-haul facility is designed to pull about 60,000 fish a day during “pink run” years from the White River and safely move them to a spot above Mud Mountain Dam. Pictured is Project Manager Leah Hauenstein explaining operations on the upstream side. Photo by Kevin Hanson

It’s not often the Plateau gets to brag about having the largest of anything in Washington, let alone the country, but here we are. The new Mud Mountain Dam Fish Passage facility, operating on the White River on the Enumclaw side, opened last spring after more than $130 million was spent on the public project. If you’re not familiar with how the trap-and-haul facility works, it’s all there in the name: the new facility is able to trap up to 60,000 fish (or about 1.2 million a year) every day during what’s known as “pink run” years, load them into a truck, and drive them up-river past Mud Mountain Dam, where they are released. The previous facility, built in 1941, was only able to trap-and-haul 20,000 fish a day during salmon runs.

8. 500 VACCINATED AT ST. ELIZABETH OVER THE WEEKEND (MARCH 10)

This was Enumclaw’s first large COVID-19 vaccination event, organized by the local hospital and former Enumclaw Senior Center Director Jobyna Nickum, who helped make appointments for local seniors. “I feel so much relief that we were able to offer this vaccine clinic to our older adults,” she told the Courier-Herald. “We have heard nothing for the last month or two but people calling and going, ‘I can’t get a vaccine. I can’t get an appointment. Can you help me?’ … We have been on the phone for hours trying to call these other clinics, and they can’t get them.” Currently in the 98022 ZIP code area, 69.1 percent of residents have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; 64.7 percent of residents have completed their vaccine series; 21 percent of residents have received a booster dose.

7. BUCKLEY TEEN’S DEATH INSPIRED HELMET LAW, AWARENESS CAMPAIGN (MARCH 17)

Berrett Michael Wirth Crossley, seen in this family photo, died March 6, 2021, after suffering a head injury while skateboarding several days earlier. Photo obtained with permission from an online fundraiser for Berrett’s medical expenses.

Berrett Michael Wirth Crossley, seen in this family photo, died March 6, 2021, after suffering a head injury while skateboarding several days earlier. Photo obtained with permission from an online fundraiser for Berrett’s medical expenses.

Berrett Michael Wirth Crossley died March 6, 2021 after sustaining a head injury at the Buckley state park a few days earlier. The tragedy was met by an outpouring of community support — a GoFundMe covering Berrett’s medical expenses surpassed its $25,000 goal in just four days. Additionally, the Buckley City Council passed an ordinance later that month requiring skateboarders, bicyclists and some other wheeled vehicle users to wear helmets in the city.

6. KING COUNTY SHERIFF FIRED DETECTIVE WHO FATALLY SHOT BLACK DIAMOND MAN IN 2019 (APRIL 7)

Anthony Chilcott was shot by detectives George Alvarez and Josh Lerum after he stole a truck (with a dog inside) at a Black Diamond gas station in November 2019, leading police on a three-day search before finding him in the Cumberland area, where he was killed. While former King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht cleared Alvarez and Lerum of using excessive force, the sheriff fired Alvarez for “demonstrat[ing] a disregard for the public, your partner and yourself,” in how the detective confronted Chilcott. It’s unclear whether charges will be filed against Alvarez; the King County Prosecuting Attorney continues to wait for the results of a King County Executive/coroner’s inquest. According to the KCPO, inquests are currently on hold, and “are expected to resume in 2022.”

5. STORIES, HEALING, AND REFLECTION AT THE MOVING WALL (AUG. 11)

Daniel and Marie Hertlein look for names on The Moving Wall, specifically those who were a part of the 129th and 192nd assault helicopter companies. Photo by Alex Bruell

Daniel and Marie Hertlein look for names on The Moving Wall, specifically those who were a part of the 129th and 192nd assault helicopter companies. Photo by Alex Bruell

After being delayed a year by COVID, the half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial finally arrived in Enumclaw Aug. 5 – 8; Keith Mathews, a member of the local VFW Post 1949 (and who spent half a decade working to get the wall in Enumclaw) said more than 3,800 people visited the Moving Wall, and that the four-day event was highly emotional for many as they looked up friends and family among the 58,228 names inscribed on polished black panels. “They call it the healing wall for a purpose,” Mathews told the Courier-Herald. “It’s not just for the veterans. It’s for the family, too.”

4. PLATEAU AND BEYOND DONATES HUNDREDS OF BACKPACKS TO AFGHAN REFUGEES (SEPT. 29)

Students from Enumclaw High School and other local schools busily pack backpacks for Afghan refugees in the high school’s common area during just after the end of the school day on Sept. 20. Photo by Alex Bruell

Students from Enumclaw High School and other local schools busily pack backpacks for Afghan refugees in the high school’s common area during just after the end of the school day on Sept. 20. Photo by Alex Bruell

As tens of thousands of Afghans fled their home country amid the chaotic U.S. exit, local families and students got to work to make sure refugees arriving in Washington received a warm welcome. The effort, spearheaded by Julie Reece-DeMarco and her daughters Natalie and Sophia (and involved dozens of local high schoolers and educators, grocery, office and department stores, and Plateau community members), resulted in 700 backpacks filled with a total of $15,000-worth of new school supplies, as well as hand-written notes. “It definitely warms your heart,” Enumclaw School District Assistant Director for Activities and Athletics Phil Engebretsen said at the time. “Especially coming out of the pandemic the last year and a half, to have young people willing to serve others, to give up their time, it’s awesome. It’s really what we want Enumclaw, and our Enumclaw community and school district to be all about.”

3. MOUNT PEAK LOOKOUT TOWER NEARLY COMPLETED (OCT. 6)

Workers give the new Mount Peak Fire Lookout Tower a once over before opening it to the public. Contributed photo

Workers give the new Mount Peak Fire Lookout Tower a once over before opening it to the public. Contributed photo

A five-year project was finally completed last September when a helicopter crew flew portions of the Mount Peak Fire Lookout Tower up the hill for workers to assemble together. Headed by the Mount Peak Historical Fire Lookout Association, the undertaking cost around $600,000 (funded mainly through King County and state grants) and resulted in a 40-foot high replica of the fire tower that was torn down in 1966 (the only big difference being this tower is made out of steel, not wood). Visitors of the tower should note the plaques on each of the 47 steps leading up the viewing platform, as they bear the names of donors who helped fund the project and its upkeep.

2. ELK HEADS AND ICE CAVES: WHAT’S CHANGING ON MOUNT RAINIER? (OCT. 14)

The disappearance of Mount Rainier’s “Elk Head” — a formation of snow cropped by rock cliffs on the Mowich glacier that resembles its namesake — over the summer stunned local mountain experts, and is a sign that the changing climate is affecting even the (seemingly) indelible landmark. According to geologists, a June heatwave of 66 degrees (at 10,100 feet) melted 30 percent of Mount Rainier’s snowcap in just four days (normally at that time of year, the average temperature is between 40 to 50 degrees); this weather event likely ranks among the Top 10 most rapid melting events on the mountain in the last 100 years. While the Elk Head has returned with the cooler weather, other parts of the mountain remain imperiled — it’s estimated the South Tahoma glacier could “completely [melt] out” in the next 50 years, joining the growing list of dead glaciers like Williwakas, Pinnacle, Unicorn, and Stevens.

1. A TALE OF TWO CITIES: ENUMCLAW, BLACK DIAMOND CITY COUNCILS INTRODUCE ‘VACCINE INCLUSIVITY’ RESOLUTIONS AMID VERIFICATION MANDATE (NOV. 3)

How two Plateau cities reacted to Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine verification mandate essentially embodied the COVID culture wars being fought across the country. The Enumclaw City Council successfully passed what’s been colloquially known as a “vaccine inclusivity” resolution last fall, stating the city stands against the mandate, condemning it as discriminatory against “lower income citizens, minority communities, citizens who adhere to religious beliefs, citizens with disabilities and citizens with a medical condition.” Additionally, on the same night as passing the resolution, Enumclaw voted to research ways to leave King County; while the vaccine verification mandate wasn’t the only reason council members unanimously voted to approve this research, it seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

To the north, a similar vaccine inclusivity resolution in Black Diamond failed to pass the city council in a 5-2 vote, with the majority of the council saying the mandate isn’t discriminatory. This lead to several prominent citizens speaking out at later council meetings, requesting the council “live to the public opinion.”

TOP 10 MOST READ

1) Buckley teen’s death inspired helmet law, awareness campaign – 5,946 online views

2) Ravensdale author pens update on Judith Mawson, ex-wife of the Green River Killer – 5,095 views

3) Enumclaw cleans up homeless camp – 4,396 views

4) Man dies after helping rescue girlfriend at the Green River on Friday – 3,609 views

5) Traveling Moving Wall will spend four days in Enumclaw – 3,073 views

6) WSDOT closing SR 167 between Sumner, Pacific for construction – 2,953 views

7) Enumclaw passes vaccine inclusivity resolution, condemns vaccine verification mandate as discriminatory – 2,863 views

8) Mount Rainier visitor dies after reported fall in Paradise area – 2,782 views

9) Deputies seize meth, explosives, stolen gun from Bonney Lake area property – 2,602 views

10) How a gravemarker found in a Bonney lake garbage dump led to a century-spanning detective story – 2,173 views

Honorable mention: What does your faith exempt you from? | Church Corner – 7,009 views


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