Gnomes, fairies, elves and hobbits have new lodging available in Juanita Beach Park, thanks to an aging cottonwood tree and creative Kirkland Parks staff.
The roughly six-foot-tall stump is perched in the park’s grassy field on the north side of Northeast Juanita Drive directly east of the tennis courts. The diminutive dwelling is suitable for all species of stubby stature, featuring a doorway, windows and even a tiny cedar shake roof, according to a city press release. Parks staff put the finishing touches on the structure on March 15, adding brightly colored flower-festooned window boxes and a placard proclaiming the stump “Ryug Frostinson’s home for fairies, elves and gnomes.”
The tree’s potential as hobbit housing was revealed during a routine tree assessment, periodically done to ensure the safety of parks users, the release states. Cottonwood is notorious for brittleness with age and heartwood deterioration, so assessments are commonly done to identify high-risk trees and slate them for removal. During his assessment of the old cottonwood, Kirkland parks’ field arborist Doug Hunter spotted a long narrow crack near the tree’s base, peered inside and discovered that the tree was quite hollow, the release states.
Hunter was immediately struck by the idea of repurposing the old tree. He had recently read a story about a similarly hollow cottonwood that had been converted into a “Little Free Library,” which kicked his creativity into high gear, according to the release.
He pitched his idea to the city’s parks maintenance and operations team and a plan was hatched.
“Parks staff unanimously fell in love with this project and we know the community will too,” said Green Kirkland Partnership supervisor Jodie Galvan in the release. “This was such a great opportunity to keep our community safe while adding something creative for families to enjoy. We couldn’t pass it up.”
The tree’s tiny features were primarily built from repurposed materials, including the roof, which was constructed by Hunter and parks groundsperson Ian Frost. Additional project contributors included Galvan, Rob Martinson, Ryan Fowler and others.
“This was truly a team effort,” parks and community services director Lynn Zwaagstra said in the release. “We are grateful to our staff for their innovative ideas and hope that everyone gets the chance to enjoy this fun addition to the park.”