Under one roof: New public structure built on hopes of uniting Carnation | Photos

 Tilth members Jon Romanelli, left, and executive director Heidi Bohan are excited for the completion the of the Tolt Commons Community Shelter project, which will enable the Tilth-operated Carnation Farmers Market to expand its season, and will serve as a community gathering spot for the city.  - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo
Tilth members Jon Romanelli, left, and executive director Heidi Bohan are excited for the completion the of the Tolt Commons Community Shelter project, which will enable the Tilth-operated Carnation Farmers Market to expand its season, and will serve as a community gathering spot for the city.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

On a bright February day, the wooden beams and roofing of Carnation’s rising Tolt Commons Community Shelter have a warm and welcoming feel, just as builder Jon Romanelli planned.

The building, an L-shaped post and beam structure with an enclosure at the center, assembled with hand-worked mortise-and-tenon joints, seems to wrap visitors in the rich colors and smells of natural cedar.

“You see a house done this way, and you walk inside of it, you almost feel… kind of almost hugged by the wood,” he explained.

Romanelli, a member of Sno-Valley Tilth, is deeply invested in the $72,000 building and its reception in the community, and not just because he was awarded the construction contract last year. He, like Heidi Bohan, the past Carnation Farmers Market manager, sees the building as an opportunity for the market to expand its schedule, and eventually to run year-round. It will also be open to Carnation residents for a variety of uses.

He credits Bohan with leading the charge to create the shelter, in a process that started four years ago.

“It’s Heidi’s vision here, all I am is kind of the doula that brought it into the birthing process,” he said.

Bohan, executive director of Sno-Valley Tilth and then-manager of the farmers market, proposed a partnership with the city of Carnation to develop the building in the fall of 2008. With Tilth in-kind contributions and funding from several grant sources, as well as the city, she envisioned a much larger project, with a fully-equipped commercial kitchen.

Benefits of the project, she said, included a chance for the farmers market to extend its season, eventually running year-round, possibly for more than one day of the week. The most expensive piece of the project, a commercial kitchen that was ultimately removed from the final plans, could have been rented to local farmers who wanted to create value-added products, such as canned goods or preserves, bringing the city both rental revenue, and the potential for increased traffic as the market and farmers expand their offerings.

“We’re trying to figure out how to get people to stop as they drive through town,” Bohan said.

Long history

Opposition from some city councilmen and residents led to lengthy discussions at the city council level about who would use the facility, and whether the city might better spend its money in other areas. Ultimately, the project was scaled back to its current form, two roofed concrete slabs with space for about eight 10-foot by 10-foot vendor booths, and a central enclosed space with storage, restrooms (required for vendors) and a very basic kitchen. The delay cost the project more than $100,000 in grants earmarked for a commercial kitchen, Bohan said.

The council cast a split vote to support the project in August, 2010, and Bohan was gratified by the support the project got from the council members who voted in favor.

“All four spoke very eloquently about how much they supported this project,” she said.

In all, Carnation gave the project $20,000. Other funding came from King County, $10,000, a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for $34,000, and an additional $18,000 from Sno-Valley Tilth, donated when the construction bids opened in September all came in higher than expected. Much of the work has been done by volunteers, to get the building to its current stage, which does not include power connections.

“We had an extremely limited, extremely tight budget,” said Carnation City Manager Ken Carter, “and without the help of the Tilth and the local merchants and the vendors, and a lot of people, a lot of people, this would not have happened.”

All of that participation, he added, has led to a real feeling of community ownership in the building. At the city’s encouragement, Bohan has led two community meetings to gather citizen input on possible uses for the building, and has heard many suggestions, including picnic shelters, bulletin boards, a site for home-based business fairs, an entertainment venue, and a gathering spot for candlelight vigils and other community events, “a place that really serves as the emotional core of the community,” Bohan explained.

“It’s almost like (they’re all saying) ‘It’s mine! It’s mine!’ We’ve got a lot of owners,” Carter said. “It’s truly a structure that’s for the entire community.”

The project received a blessing by the Snoqualmie Canoe Family Sept. 26, and ground was broken Oct. 13. Construction is nearly complete and the shelter should be ready, except for some landscaping tasks, for a mid-April dedication ceremony.

The only confirmed use of the shelter currently is the Tilth-owned and operated Carnation Farmers Market, Tuesdays from 3 to 7 p.m., May to September. Bohan is no longer the market manager, but she’s guessing the market could run until November this year.

Moment of feeling

Many of the decisions, including which of the market’s 20 to 30 vendors might be offered one of the eight covered spots, how the traffic will flow, where the bands and other entertainers will set up, have yet to be settled, Bohan said. Since she is still on the Tilth board, and the chairperson of the community shelters committee, she expects to participate in some of those decisions, but the new market manager, Melissa Borsting, will have the final say.

Walking through the structure, Bohan tells Romanelli, “I’m loving the light in here.” She admires the details of the construction, and starts mentally arranging things.

It’s a moment of mixed feelings for Bohan, who has managed the market through some growing pains. She started six years ago as a volunteer, and became manager a year later.

“I came into the market in its fourth year, which is the year that everybody burns out,” she said. So she dedicated herself to building community support for the market, and introducing new events like the opening-day maypole, and various contests that are now fixtures in the season.

It was her job, of course, but also her mission.

Tilth members “don’t feel like it’s a business, it’s something we do for the benefit of the community,” she said.

• For more information about the Carnation Farmers Market, visit the blog at

Above, a view of Carnation's new public shelter.

Below, Framed by the ceiling of the new shelter, builder Jon Romanelli and outgoing Carnation Farmers Market manager Heidi Bohan, like many community members, gave a lot to this project. Romanelli opted for a time-consuming but durable mortise-and-tenon joint construction, and Bohan created the architectural drawings. Volunteers gave many hours of their time for phase 1 of the construction, and are planning fundraisers to continue the work, bringing power and landscaping to the facility.



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