SEDRO-WOOLLEY — As public access increases at the former Northern State Hospital campus, so do questions about the site.
Luke Bitto of Scouts BSA Troop 4070 in Sedro-Woolley is doing his part to help provide answers.
As part of his Eagle Scout project, Bitto — with the help of his father Nick — built and installed seven interpretive sign mounts on the grounds of what is now the SWIFT Center.
He worked with the Port of Skagit, which owns the property, on where the signs were to be located.
“I have walked around a lot out here and asked the port about putting up some signs and they were interested,” Bitto said. “I am really happy to see it happening now.”
With the help of fellow scouts, family and friends, holes were dug and footings poured to secure the sign mounts.
Cooper Ristow of Sedro-Woolley, an Eagle Scout himself, was one of those who lent a hand.
“I’m friends with Luke and he contacted me to see if I would be interested in helping out. It’s a cool project and so here I am,” Ristow said.
Bitto said he originally planned to purchase prefabricated sign mounts, but made the decision to build them himself.
“I ended up buying the steel and then welding it together,” he said. “That took awhile and honestly it was making me a little nervous.”
The Sedro-Woolley Rotary Club gave Bitto $950 for materials.
The signs that will go on Bitto’s mounts are being designed and installed by the Port of Skagit.
“He (Bitto) approached us actually before COVID, unfortunately, and so it has really been a drawn-out process with supplies, coordination and whatnot,” said Port of Skagit Communications Manager Linda Tyler. “We have identified seven different historical buildings where those informational signs will be placed out there.”
Tyler said Bitto’s interest was perfect because putting interpretive signs at the site had been on the port’s to-do list for some time.
“So those who visit can learn and appreciate more and really get the sense of what the history is on that campus,” she said. “We are always in awe of the connections people have to that campus. To be able to share the story of the different buildings and to celebrate that history is exciting.”
Bitto is one of those with a personal connection to the former hospital. His great grandmother was a patient there.
“My aunt told me about my great grandmother and that made me want to learn more,” Bitto said. “So I started to read about the hospital and figured others would want to know more as well.”