Northwest Trolls – The Way of the Bird King comes to Sakai Park    

NW Trolls logoIf you’re a follower of our local social media, or visitor to Sakai Park, you might have noticed that something is afoot…the construction of a large-scale whimsical troll. Bainbridge Island joins four other WA sites—West Seattle, City of Issaquah, Vashon Island, Ballard— and one site in Portland, OR that will host a troll. The troll project, which is called the Northwest Trolls: Way of the Bird King, is designed by Thomas Dambo,  a native of Odense, Denmark, and is considered the world’s leading recycle artist. Using his unlimited imagination, he’s spent his life expressing himself through music, street art, and scenic design. Today, he is known internationally for his larger-than-life troll sculptures, which are a part of his project “The Trail of a Thousand Trolls”, and are made from recycled wood. The project currently has 100 sculptures all over the world, Thomas’s vision is “to create art that inspires people to get into nature.”

Bainbridge Troll at Sakai Park under construction (2)
Bainbridge Troll at Sakai Park under construction

In mid-July, we shared the project with our readers*, and I stopped by the park this morning to get an update and see the progress on the Way of the Bird King. In attendance were several volunteers, Thomas and his team, Terry Lande, Executive Director of the Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation Department (BIMPRD), Parks Commissioner Dawn Janow, and Dan Hamlin, Park Services Division Director.

Terry couldn’t help but share his enthusiasm for the project and the support it has received from the community, noting that yesterday alone, the volunteers dismantled over 120 pallets and helped to organize the other donated supplies, such as salvaged two-by-fours from construction projects donated by local partners, like Fairbanks Construction.

Bainbridge Troll volunteers with Thomas Dambo
Bainbridge Troll volunteers with Thomas Dambo

All of the work is being done by volunteers and Thomas’s team, who were onsite today to provide direction. The troll head, hands and feet tubes, were pre-built in Thomas’s workshop in Denmark and shipped by container to Seattle, where they were picked up by the site partners a few weeks ago. I spoke with Santiago Acosta, who is a native Argentinian and met Thomas when he moved to Denmark five years ago. Santiago is the lead for the project and explained that it consists of 10 giant sculptures being built across the United States. With a smile, he said he’ll be with the project until the “Bird King is done and ready to fly.” Although the traveling and work can be hard, he loves the passion and joy he experiences with each new community they visit.

Among many other volunteers, Sonya Senstra, her son Jay, and her dad, Lowen Clausen were there, pulling nails and organizing the supplies. As second and third generation Danish-Americans, they follow Thomas’s work and were extremely excited to participate in the project. “Anything that gets people out, loving art and nature is just beautiful,” Sonya said.

Bainbridge Troll under construction at Sakai Park August 9-10, 2023
Bainbridge Troll under construction at Sakai Park August 9-10, 2023

In addition to the onsite volunteers, the BI Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, known, at least for the next week or so, as the “Troll Patrol” have been camping out at Sakai Park each night to protect the site. Dawn noted that they’d love the Girl Scouts to get involved too.  It isn’t just laborers and the Troll Patrol, without the support of other volunteers who have provided lodging, meals, snacks, transportation and social media support, they couldn’t possibly accomplish such a monumental task. “The community support has been just amazing,” Dawn said. “Spreading the joy and building new relationships and partnerships has been like a gift to the island.”

In our July article, we noted that the location was a surprise, we knew it would be in one of our parks, but which one had yet to be unveiled. I asked Dawn why they chose Sakai. Its accessibility was key, she said. Its central to the downtown core and the ferry, near the Sound to Olympics trail, which is in the lower area of Sakai Park (at High School Road and SR 305), is close to schools, and the diverse flora and fauna of the park made it a perfect spot. Of course, the flat terrain of the upper level off of Madison Avenue made it ideal for transporting equipment and supplies to the site as well.

Bainbridge Troll at BIMA Block Party 2023
Bainbridge Troll at BIMA Block Party 2023

The funding for each of the six sites is provided by Scan Design Foundation (SDF) in Seattle and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, however each site is tasked with raising additional ancillary funds to complete the project. Additional fundraising for the Bainbridge Troll is ongoing through support from their fiscal sponsor, Arts & Humanities Bainbridge (AHB) and a multitude of community sponsors and donors. “There has been some community concern that tax payer dollars are going toward this project, and that is not the case, the Bainbridge Troll will be privately funded,” Dawn told us in July.

Feeding the Troll donation bird house at Sisters' Cider House
Feeding the Troll donation bird house at Sisters’ Cider House

As part of their ongoing fundraising efforts, the BI Troll’s head was on display at last weekend’s BIMA Block Party, where you could feed your loose change into the troll. If you didn’t get the chance to donate coins at the Block Party, you can still donate at Sisters’ Cider House on Hildebrand Lane (and grab one of their delicious ciders while you’re there) or via the link, just be sure to specify “TROLL” with your donation here:

On Wednesday, August 16th from 6-8:30pm, Thomas Dambo will host an Artist Talk & Donor Reception at BIMA. Join them for an exciting in-person donor event with a lovely reception and an opportunity to meet the artist. To purchase your tickets, click here. The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art is located at 550 Winslow Way East Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Friends of the Bainbridge Troll is so thankful to all of its Sponsors, Donors and Community Partners:

Nicole Niehaus: Sweet Deal Clothing (Sustaining Donor), Bainbridge Island Community Foundation, The 1066 Fund, Julie Meyers Real Estate: Bainbridge Homes Real Estate, Kell Killian: Charter Real Estate, Brandon Keller: Cogwheel Construction, Carii Clawson, Realtor/Broker & Tom Schirle, Broker: Compass Real Estate Bainbridge Island, Alex Sanso: Island Life Artisan Gifts, Jude Grenney: JGO Gallery Bainbridge, Tara Scouten, Broker & Agent: John L. Scott, Sweet Dahlia Baking, Sisters’ Cider House, Bainbridge Homes, Bainbridge Arts and Humanities, Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network, Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce, Bainbride Island Metro Park and Recreation District, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Boy Scouts of America: Troop 1496, L’Attelier, ReFashion, Scrappy Lab Art Project, Stellar Wine, Uniquely Bainbridge, Zero Waste, and all the individuals who donated.

*To learn more, visit our previous article: Taking Public Art to a whole new level – Bring on the Trolls! | THE ISLAND WANDERER

You can also follow the  Friends of Bainbridge Troll on Facebook and Instagram for updates: and

You can follow Thomas and his team on their journey here: Trollmap — By Thomas Dambo

*Images and logos provided by Friends of the Bainbridge Troll and The Island Wanderer

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