The community totem pole project originally planned for Gold Bar is still moving forward, but the final placement and design remain undecided.

Carver Tony Rath put considerable hours into the project in January, using the Startup Gym for a workspace. The western red cedar tree was donated, and felled “on a very cold winter morning.” The bark has been peeled, and then the bare timber had to sit and wait.

Rath said before anything moved forward, he had to consult with members and the elders of the Tulalip Tribe, whose territory historically extended along the Skykomish River. With that permission granted, Rath expected to start carving again by Monday.

“I think the ancestors would smile much more broadly with something that is traditionally appropriate,” he said. 

Originally, Rath, who has been a carver for nearly three decades, had the totem pole designed in the northern style, commonly used in British Columbia, along the coast and up into Alaska. Now he will recraft the wood to fit into the southern style, which is more traditional for the region.

The project will take around one year to complete, and will be an entirely voluntary effort, Rath said. It is intended to honor the indigenous people that were here before the area was settled, he said.

Gold Bar Mayor Lee Hodo said the totem pole was originally intended to be a gift to the city. After delving into the logistics of supporting the piece, city staff found that spending any money toward insurance or maintenance costs would have been a misappropriation of funds, and could have costs thousands of dollars, he said.

Hodo said the Washington State Department of Transportation also didn’t approve the totem pole to be installed in the desired location, on the agency’s property south of U.S. Highway 2. 

“There were just too many problems for the city to get involved with it,” he said.

Hodo said he is disappointed the city will not be receiving, what “would have been a good addition to the city,” but wishes Rath all the best. 

Sky Valley Visitors Center president Debbie Copple said the Sky Valley Arts Council, which supports arts and heritage activity in the Sky Valley and Cascade Loop, is currently allowing Rath to work on the nonprofit’s property. The Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce has been involved in discussions about the project.

Copple said she supports the project, “if it honors the culture and history of the local people.”