OAK HARBOR, Wash. — Deception Pass State Park is helping old-growth trees find new life after they fall or have to be removed.

The park is in the process of replacing 375 deteriorating picnic tables, many of which have spent season after season weathering the elements. The park is replacing the outdoor ones with a design that honors an original Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) plan from when the park was founded. These are assembled by volunteers and park staff.

Area Manager Jason Armstrong showed off some of the new tables at the Rosario Beach area.

“The whole area here is the heritage area of the park, one of the original areas the CCC worked on, and we’re trying to return it back to its similar state,” Armstrong said.

Tables outside are built from commercially-bought wood. But some picnic tables inside park shelters are being constructed from valuable old-growth trees within the park. Trees that were either unstable and had to be removed, or fell in storms.

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“These are made out of about a 250-year-old tree in the park, it was in the Forest Loop campground,” explained Armstrong, inside the Rosario picnic shelter.

Armstrong said the park has four choices when a tree falls, 

  • Break it up for firewood
  • Move it to a place where it can rot and feed the forest
  • Have it professionally milled and sold at market
  • Or use it in the park 

That final option, Armstrong said, is his latest project.

“This tree is actually older than the state of Washington. So, this tree was here before 1889,” he said. “Just to think about that whole process and who was wandering the woods, the critters and creatures here, this tree has touched probably many of those people.”

So far, 15-20 trees have been collected, Armstrong said. Some of them will go to other uses in the park. 

Now he hopes the story of these ancient trees will live on through this new use. He also wants visitors to know how humans impacted the tree – accidentally hitting it with camper trailers until it had to come down.

There are already 10 such tables spread across two shelters, with more to come. Another long-table design from old-growth is installed at a Cranberry Lake shelter.

“I think these tables could last 40-50 years, even longer,” said Armstrong.

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