By Mariah Beckman
For the past three weeks, the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire in Bonney Lake has drawn in all sorts of fantastic creatures to Kelley Farm. However, mythical creatures are no stranger to the sweeping vistas and glacial lakes of this enchanting town.
Once upon a time…
…there were magical stirrings along the shores of the lake and in the green parks of this fair city. Rustles and hushed hammering could be heard at all hours of the night. And then, it happened. The creatures slowly began to reveal themselves.
Gnomes were first spied in Bonney Lake early in the spring of 2013 when councilman Tom Watson observed their dwellings with his own two eyes. As the owner of Signs in Wood and an expert wood carver, Watson knew right away that some very special little tinkers must have crafted these diminutive little haunts.
So charmed was he by this finding that he had to share the curious news at a council meeting not long after. He brought a slide of a single gnome door, fashioned from wood and carved with ornate trim. “That,” Watson said, pointing to the slide, “is a gnome house. I didn’t realize we had gnome houses in the city of Bonney Lake, but I think they actually are coming through our parks and trails right now.” An intrigued mayor and council members listened, curious.
“After centuries of peace,” Watson continued, “gnomes are craving for adventure and excitement. They have arrived in our parks in Bonney Lake.”
Of course, the city rallied; they wanted to make their new, bold little visitors feel welcome. Just as the cobbler relied on elves to help finish his shoes in the fable, the council hoped to give the gnomes a new lease on life by crafting a few customized gnome doors, using the prototype as an example.
Council members Laurie Carter and Tom Watson, as well as park board member Scott Anderson, set to work spreading the news. The gnomes, of course, would need a Facebook if they wanted to fit in, so Anderson saw to that. Wood was needed, and skilled painters, too; Carter and Watson looked to the senior center for help to enliven these knee-high entryways.
The gnomes seemed pleased
Slowly but steadily, more and more gnome doors were spotted around town. Park board chairman Jim Bouchard wanted to spread the news. Gnomes — as most people know — love children. And families. Bouchard, a lover of the PNW-grown outdoor hobby geocaching, determined GPS coordinates to each of the homes that had been cataloged. Everyone agreed that the gnomes would love to see children visit their homes, as well as to see families share photos of the magical doors on social media and rejoice.
And then, trouble struck…
A wave of vandalisms began to slowly besiege the gnome metropolis. Families and children came from far and near to unearth these mythical bungalows. The gnomes’ Facebook was awash with photo evidence and Likes confirming their identity. And, as sometimes happens in fables, trolls reared their ugly heads. These trolls were green with envy over the fame of their portly little cousins. They kicked in the doors, smashed them or stole them altogether. The gnomes feared for their safety.
Good, however, triumphed over the wicked in the end
Bonney Lake rallied to the defense of its gnomish neighbors. Wood was donated from the community, and the trio of council members worked to repair and replace the missing doors. To keep the doors from going missing again, many were set in place with more permanent measures. Some gnomes turned away and headed deeper into the woodlands where there was a lesser threat. Most, though, chose to stand their ground, and can still be found today by hearts that are open to a little whimsical magic.
This geo-tour, inspired by the worldwide outdoor scavenging hunt dubbed geocaching, is designed to introduce locals and visitors to some of the parks and outdoor recreation that Bonney Lake has to offer. These gnome doors were indeed staked in 2013 and celebrated their two-year anniversary in April 2015. The goal of this scavenger hunt is to inspire children and families to step outside, whatever the weather, and revel in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Gary Leaf, Bonney Lake’s facilities andsSpecial projects manager, says that given enough interest, he believes that the gnomes could be coaxed to build further developments. The city is not adverse, either, to donations of gnome related goods that could foster gnome and human coexistence.
At the time of this writing, two gnome homes — Midland Park 1 and Skystone Park — are missing-in-action. All other gnomes, however, have remained at the same address. Nearly every gnome home is situated near ground level to allow gnomes fuss-free entry to their cottages; one in Cedarview Park is owned by tree-elves and may require a boost for little eyes to spy.