For eight cousins who still return there, it's a place of childhood memories.
It's where Chuck Bachman learned to shoot a .22. Cousin Scott Soper got his first lesson on pushing in a truck's clutch. Another cousin, Nancy Hoefer, remembered corn, raspberries and apple trees that used to grow there.
"This is more like an heirloom," Scott Soper said. "We're trying to keep it in the family."
A new bridge that promises to whisk traffic over Jim Creek also might erode the sense of place at old Soper farm.
Snohomish County is preparing to condemn a portion of the family property southeast of Arlington so it can widen the one-lane bridge over the creek later this year. The project, which could cost up to $3 million, also calls for re-aligning the angle of the bridge to improve sight lines. The plan includes a new water-retention pond down the road.
That plan won't take out much in the way of physical structures at the farm. It amounts to less than a half acre out of the more than 50 acres family members own in the area. Most of what the county intends to use would be in a short strip along the road, plus a patch of ground for a construction staging area nearer to the bridge.
Still, family members wonder what the future atmosphere might be like.
When built in 1914, Jim Creek Bridge No. 42 allowed traffic to pass in both directions. That's no longer possible with today's wider vehicles.
These days, stop signs stand at either end of the span. While many drivers navigate the stretch at more of a roll, rather than a complete stop like they're supposed to, the narrow passage manages to slow traffic.
That's bound to change when the stop signs are gone, and cars, trucks and motorcycles can travel through at 35 mph.
"I can definitely foresee a problem," said Soper, 45, a Seattle firefighter.
Neither county engineers nor family members could recall any serious wrecks on the bridge, which carries about 1,000 vehicles per day.
The family farm, immediately north of the bridge, hasn't been up and running for more than three decades.
Nowadays, the cinder-block barn is in disrepair. Its roof was partially covered with moss and encrusted with icicles one chilly morning earlier this month.
"The Darigold truck would pull up there," said Hoefer, 57, of Sedro-Woolley.
The old barn probably will survive the county's condemnation process, though portions of a knee-high stone wall that parallels the roadway are likely to get taken out.
The cousins never lived at the farm, but they cherish having it in the family. They sometimes gather there as a family after visiting the grave sites of more than a dozen relatives buried in an Arlington cemetery.
Their grandfather, Edward A. Soper, bought the property in the mid-1930s and lived there until his death in 1975. Before becoming a dairyman, the World War I vet had survived service in the Signal Corps, which required running among the trenches in France.
"So it's a miracle we're all even here," said Bachman, 56, of Maple Valley.
The family rents a house on the property to a tenant.
Part of the property still belongs to Edward A. Soper's son, Edward S. Soper, who is Scott Soper's father. The 88-year-old grew up there but later moved away and now lives part time in Arizona. He is one of three siblings along with sisters Elizabeth Bachman, 85, now living in Olympia, and Mary Louise Mitchell, who is deceased.
"When we moved there, the pasture was full of burned-over stumps," Elizabeth Bachman said. "Gradually, my dad cleared all that area down below the house and also the patch down by the bridge."
Bachman, who is Chuck Bachman's mother, said her father spent most of his career as a state dairy inspector. The family's small herd, ranging from three to five cows, produced enough milk to pay for her to go to Washington State University.
"Those cows put my sister and me through college," she said.
Soon after the family moved in, her mother, Louise Soper, hired a landscape architect from Edmonds to design the garden. It included much of the stone wall that still stands along the road.
Jim Creek, during her childhood, teemed with salmon every fall.
"I can remember wading across Jim Creek and not being able to wade across without having fish touch my ankles," she said.
Work on the new bridge is expected to start later this year. It could take up to two years to finish. Project managers expect to keep one lane of traffic open through construction.
On Jan. 11, the County Council decided to move ahead with condemnation. That begins the legal process for determining compensation.
Three of the cousins gathered at the property afterward, watching trucks and 4x4s with oversize tires rumble past. As they pondered the coming change, Chuck Bachman said, "I guess it's inevitable."
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; email@example.com.
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