SHS Contributes History to Pine Lake Walk
Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2020
Sammamish Walks is a volunteer group that organizes and leads walking tours through different areas of the Sammamish Plateau. The walks typically focus on natural aspects of the area but the May 21st walk through Pine Lake Park was augmented by several history-tellers provided by the SHS. This was set up by Nan Gordon who is a member of Sammamish Walks and is a friend of the SHS.
After roaming from station to station, learning about the park's flora and fauna with Nan as their guide, the small group arrived at the lake shore in front of the current restrooms to hear about the park's history. The high point of this event was two special guests arranged by Nan: Alvin "Mick" Macko and his wife Betty Jean, the last proprietors of the Pine Lake Resort; they ran it from 1957 until it was sold to King County in 1986 to become Pine Lake Park.
Despite being ninety-something, Mick's memories of the area are still vivid and included some details that were surprises even to the SHS members. Here are a few of the interesting tidbits they shared with us:
• The Mackos lived on the resort property in a house a little closer to the lake than the current restrooms. In fact, we were standing where their living room had been.
• Mick pointed across at a small house on the far shore where he and Betty Jean currently live and told us that, before the Second World War, the whole stretch of shoreline was owned by a Japanese family that ran a large poultry ranch there. After Pearl Harbor the family was interred and the confiscated land was sold to Erickson who platted it. The Mackos' current home is on the last lot of that plat.
• Back in the fifties and sixties the lake would freeze solid every two or three years and Mick described how he and Betty Jean would skate the whole length of the lake. Betty Jean told us about a man with a small cabin on the opposite shore who bought a new refrigerator one winter. Since access to his cabin was difficult from the road, he waited until the lake was well frozen and then used the resort's boat launch to slide his new appliance out onto the ice. Using some lengths of rope, he harnessed himself to the heavy 'fridge and dragged it straight across the lake by himself. Fortunately, the ice held and he avoided sleeping with the trout.
• Speaking of trout, the State Department of Fish and Game was determined to make Pine Lake into a trout lake for fishing. Over a period of several years they poisoned the lake and killed every living thing in it so the trout they were stocking it with would have no competition. What the trout ate in the sterilized lake is unrecorded. Mick's strongest memory of this period was the smell emanating from the dead fish piled a foot deep on the shore in front of his house.
• Back before the shoreline was as thoroughly developed as it is today, the lake supported a thriving population of bull frogs the size of dinner plates. Many of those frogs, or at least their legs, actually ended up on dinner plates in some of Seattle's finer restaurants; a small group of men frequently visited the marshy shore and left with burlap sacks full of their croaking booty.
• When Mick was a boy, there was a trapper's cabin, old even then, near the entrance to the resort. For years after it was gone you could still tell where it had been from the midden of rusty cans the trapper habitually tossed out of his window.
Today, since the last remodel of the park in 2009, not even the smallest trace remains of the original resort the Mackos ran for twenty-five years.