Big Rock, Big Trees, Little Park -- New Safeway Being Built Near Tiny Duvall Landmark


No one can really say for sure who planted the two huge sequoia trees in King County's smallest park, Big Rock Park in Duvall.

The pie-slice-shaped park, in the middle of Northeast Big Rock Road at Highway 203, is properly named. It consists of a huge boulder with the sequoias standing as sentinels, totaling only a couple hundred square feet in size.

The road, entering the highway from the east, is split so that the westbound lane is on the north side of the trees and boulder, and the eastbound lane is on the south side.

The road was built by the county in 1909 and named the J.D. Mercer Road after a pioneer family that homesteaded land east of the highway. The county acquired the park in 1952 and changed the road's name to Big Rock Road in 1974.

Now there are more changes in store for the road: Safeway is planning a 9.5-acre shopping center that will require moving the road about 600 feet north of its current intersection with Highway 203.

To protect Big Rock Park, the old route will be blocked off at the highway on the west and at one entrance to Duvall Safeway Plaza on the east.

In addition to a 42,800-square-foot Safeway store in the first phase, plans call for two adjacent shops totaling 9,580 square feet and four retail pads on the east, north and west parts of the plaza.

Safeway hopes to open its store by November.

But the question remains about the origin of the sequoias, which are not native to the Pacific Northwest. Based on interviews with several longtime Duvall residents, several possibilities emerged.

Probably the most accurate is that T.R. Hopkins provided the sequoia seedlings, sometime in the early 1900s. A horticulturist and nurseryman who ran a small tree farm in Duvall, Hopkins was considered a sort of Johnny Appleseed of the Pacific Northwest.

He operated a nursery in Seattle and was known for giving customers small plants and seedlings to plant, said his grandson, Don Hopkins.

In a similar vein, T.R. Hopkins hauled a redwood tree to Bellevue in a horse-drawn wagon and planted it at Northeast Eighth Street and 104th Avenue Northeast in the early 1900s.

Another yarn has a couple of schoolteachers from Duvall visiting in California in the early 1900s and bringing the sequoia seedlings from there.

Others suggest Leo Herzog, a friend of Hopkins, helped plant the trees. Still others say Leo Leyde, who lived on Northeast Big Rock Road decades ago, planted the trees.

Regardless, the trees and rock are there to stay, and have become a landmark in the Lower Snoqualmie Valley.

Louis T. Corsaletti's phone message number is 206-515-5626. His e-mail address is:

Roadside Attractions is an occasional feature of The Seattle Times Eastside edition. If you spot something on the Eastside you'd like to know more about, contact us via the addresses at the top of this page. ------------------------------- Meeting on Safeway project

The Duvall Planning Commission will hold a public meeting on the proposed Safeway project at 7 p.m. March 19 at the Duvall Library.