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Town of Concrete's iconic silos could see new life

A father and daughter climbing duo hope to elevate the long dormant structure.

CONCRETE, Wash. — Seattle has its Space Needle, George has The Gorge and Concrete has its ... silos.

Soon, though, they could help bring tourists to the tiny Skagit County town. 

When Gwyenth Akers looks at the hulking gray monolith along Highway 20 in Skagit County, she sees nothing but possibility.

"When I first looked at it I was like, that's pretty awesome," she said.

The silos are a tomb of sorts from a bygone era of cement manufacturing that gave the town of Concrete its name in the early 1900s.

The silos have sat dormant since the 1960s, but a father and daughter climbing duo are hoping to bring them back.

"We've been climbing together for about six years," said Jeremy Akers, Gwyneth's father. "You have a pretty strong relationship when you're on rock together."

At 12-years-old, Gwyneth is already a rather accomplished climber - having scaled the world's tallest artificial climbing wall at 168 feet.

She and her dad have been climbing since Gwyneth was 6 years old.

When she saw the silos, Gwyneth had an idea to "elevate" the old structure.

"Just looking at the silos and thinking they can be climbable is really awesome," she said.

The two, along with fellow climber Rafael O'Connor, plan to turn the 100-foot-tall silos into a climbing wall with up to 17 different routes.

O'Connor had a similar idea about three years ago and was moving forward before the COVID-19 pandemic brought his progress to a halt.

"COVID happened and everything just stopped," he said.

Now, the renewed hope is the climbing wall will bring tourists to the tiny mountain town who might otherwise pass it by on their way to adventures in the North Cascades.

"There is certainly a market for this. It's a no brainer," said Concrete Mayor Jason Miller. "I see this as another tool in our economic tool box."

Jeremy Akers is a veteran of the elevator industry and has extensive safety experience with big buildings.

Fellow climber O'Connor said the walls of the silos are 16 inches thick.

"I have zero concerns with the safety of this structure," he said. "Zero concerns."

Gwyneth hopes the simple slab of austere architecture will be uplifting to the people of Concrete.

"When I look at it I see people climbing it and there's a beauty to it," she said.

Miller said the Town Council is behind the plan and if all goes smoothly people could be climbing in Concrete by late summer.

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