A silver sparkling stream slips down a pristine valley in the Willapa Hills and cuts through Willapa National Wildlife Refuge’s old headquarters site along U.S. Highway 101 between Seaview and Naselle. Here is the Art Trail at Cutthroat Creek.

A well maintained path and boardwalk offers accessibility across the small estuary and then snakes into the heavily forested foothills. Along the path, artworks and nature itself tantalizes the viewer. This small offering sits like a jewel in the crown. If you slow your car and turn into the old refuge headquarters, you are greeted by a large metal sculpture of a salmon, or shall we say, a metal salmon skeleton. You used to be greeted by a menagerie of big and small animal sculptures.

Salmon skeleton sculpture

A man-sized metal sculpture of a salmon skeleton marks the entrance of the art walk.

On two days earlier this month, vandals removed all the art pieces that were constructed of brass or bronze. Thieves broke the pieces loose and carted them away. In doing so they committed a larger crime than just stealing the artwork: they stole the public’s right to enjoy the aspirations of the artists who poured heart and soul into their creations. The thieves infringed on your rights and pleasures.

Bronze frog

This contemplating frog was among many sculptures plundered from the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge earlier this month.

The Art Trail featured the animals and creatures that inundate the refuge: frogs, newts, salmon, waterfowl and others. The Art Trail is a nature walk. After all, the refuge epitomizes the best of the Pacific Northwest. Here is a cornucopia of flora and fauna, all in a natural setting with accessibility to you, to your family, and, most importantly, to your children. All that stolen away so vandals could sell the metal to a recycler for pennies on the dollar.

The Art Trail remains, and a few of the sculptures, those mostly too heavy to cart away. A recent freeze brought down a number of alder trees and damaged the Cutthroat Climb Trail, currently closed, that rises steeply up the hillside. But nature remains intact and is healing as we speak. If given half a chance, all this will clean up. But in the pandemic times, there is no certainty that the artwork will be replaced. And therein lies the tragedy.

Killdeer silhouette

One of the few remaining sculptures at the Cutthroat Creek Art Trail is this silhouette of a killdeer.

You can help. Jackie Ferrier, manager of the refuge, is searching for ideas. So are the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. Obviously, any ideas, support and donations to the Friends would be appreciated. The loss most likely will run in the tens of thousands of dollars. Hopefully, it can be rebuild. Hopefully, this lovely refuge will endure.

Just now, it needs your help. For more information, visit friendsofwillaparefuge.org.

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