Boy Scout to rebuild bridge in Japanese Gulch

Kamiak sophomore launches GoFundMe after vandals destroy project
By Marie Haaland | Beacon reporter | Sep 06, 2017

Since vandals destroyed his Eagle Scout project last week – a wooden footbridge in Japanese Gulch – 15-year-old Ethan Papenhausen has been working hard to rebuild.

The project, which spanned a 17-foot-long gully along a trail, was there for just more tha a week before screws on the bridge were tampered with.

Papenhausen did some work on the bridge on Sunday, Aug. 27, because it had settled more to one side than the other. The next day, he received an email from Karl Almgren, an associate city planner with the city of Mukilteo, asking about some loosened screws.

“On Monday we noticed some of the boards had been unscrewed, and Ethan told me he had done a repair, so I figured he had done the repair and they hadn’t been screwed back down,” Almgren said.

Papenhausen was confused by the email, because the loosened screws were unrelated to his fixing of the bridge.

On Wednesday, Aug. 30, a local man found the top row of two-by-four boards missing and the bridge itself flipped over.

“The entire frame had been flipped over,” Almgren said. “Once I saw that, I contacted our Public Works Department and they took the frame up to their workshop so it couldn’t be further damaged. That way, we can reuse it in the future.”

Papanhausen received a call from the Mukilteo Police Department and went out to see what was going on.

“I went out to the site and everything was gone,” Papenhausen said. “I was really devastated.”

Instead of letting this stop him, Papenhausen is working to put the bridge back together, a project he hopes to complete by the second weekend of September, though the timeline hasn’t been finalized.

“We want to try to get it up before winter, but we want to allow school to get back in session, allow some time to get it planned out and make some adjustments if needed,” Almgren said.

Papenhausen hopes to find out who took the boards and how they can get it back. But even if this is not possible, the bridge will be fixed.

Papenhausen’s GoFundMe webpage is now up and taking donations. Some $725 has been raised so far. Additionally, Dunn Lumber has offered to donate boards, which Papenhausen says is “extremely generous.”

Papenhausen has a few ideas of how to stop any future vandalism from happening to the bridge once it is restored.

“We’re talking about putting epoxy in between the boards so it doesn’t come loose,” he said.

In the past three years, Almgren has seen eight or 10 Eagle Scout projects put up in Japanese Gulch. Nothing quite like this has happened to any of those projects.

“We’ve had some spray painting and small stuff before, but we’ve never had people intentionally come out to damage Eagle Scout projects like this,” Almgren said. “Typically, it’s recognized as something built for the community and it’s protected by the community.”

Papanhausen is working to stay positive and focus on rebuilding.

“Nothing’s going to happen if you just think about what happened to it or who did it,” he said.

“Our goal is to not necessarily figure out who, but to try and figure out why,” Almgren said. “Because if we can figure out why, we can potentially address that.”

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