PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A familiar face is returning to Willamina. The popular hillside of larch trees known as “Smiley Face Hill” will once again change colors in October, revealing the 300-foot smiley face of golden pines that brightens up the modest stretch of Highway 18 each fall.
The artistically arranged trees were planted on the hillside in 2011 by Hampton Lumber co-owner David Hampton and now-retired timberland manager Dennis Creel, spokesperson Kristin Rasmussen told KOIN 6 News. More than a decade later, the company says that it now receives Smiley Face Hill fan mail from around the world.
“We have school kids from across the country tell us how excited they are to see it,” Rasmussen said. “The community really loves it.”
For those interested in seeing Smiley Face Hill in person, Polk County Public Works manager Heather Chase told KOIN 6 News that the changing face should reach peak color by mid-October. While there aren’t many public areas to stop and enjoy Smiley Face Hill within the narrow valley, Chase said that there’s a pull out on the eastbound side of Highway 18, about a half mile east of the Fort Hill Road interchange, where drivers can park and enjoy the view.
“From the ground on public property, that is probably the best vantage point,” Chase said.
While the design has become a local attraction, Rasmussen said that the company still plans to harvest the wood used in the design in another 30 to 50 years. Following the harvest, the company said that it would be open to suggestions for a new design.
“When they were preparing to replant, they knew that the hillside would be very visible from the highway, so they decided to have a little fun,” she said. “Douglas fir and hemlock are the two primary species we plant in this area, but we will include other species depending on the conditions and elevation. We don’t normally plant larch in these quantities — it was just for the effect — but the larch will be milled at our sawmill down the road once it comes time for harvest. Then it will be time to plant again.”