Local Arbor Day includes putting new trees in ground

Jessica Lewis

For The New Era

“Which end goes in first?” Bill Marshall of Cascade Timber Consulting jokingly asks the students of Hawthorne Elementary School, pointing to the flowering dogwood tree they are about to plant on the school’s front lawn.

The Sweet Home Tree Commission donated the tree to the school in honor of the fourth-grade students, who drew pictures representing the importance of trees for Arbor Day, which in Oregon takes place during the first week of April. The commission judged the pictures and chose winners from each class.

“What are some of the benefits of trees?” asked Alice Smith, a botanist with the Sweet Home Ranger District. Smith and Marshall, both members of the Tree Commission, dug the hole and helped two lucky students plant the tree.

“They give shelter for animals,” one student responded.

“They give us oxygen,” said another.

“They give us something fun to climb when we’re bored,” said a third.

Sweet Home knows the importance of trees. This year marks Sweet Home’s 21st as a Tree City USA. To be recognized by Tree City USA, a program sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation, “a community must adopt a tree ordinance, appoint a board, department, or commission to advise the city on tree issues, spend $2 per capita on community forestry activities, and hold an Arbor Day celebration,” according to the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Web site.

Sweet Home’s Tree Commission maintains trees on the streets, assesses dangerous trees in the area if complaints are filed, and provides botany advice, said Carol Lewis, city community development coordinator. Last year members worked on restoring Ames Creek.

“(The commission looks) at the inventory of the trees to make sure they’re all healthy and they have replaced some that are not,” said Mayor Craig Fentiman, noting that they also help create “park plans for what trees they’re going to use in what areas.”

The commission also runs the Celebration Tree program, which plants commemorative trees donated by members of the community, and sponsors a reading program at the library. This year’s theme is “Catch a Bug at the Library,” Lewis said. In addition, the commission spends four to five months planning its annual spring event. This year the celebration will be held on May 3 at the Boys and Girls Club Gym from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The event will feature approximately thirty exhibitors who will be selling crafts or providing information about the environment.

“We have a lot of educational booths this year,” she said. “There’s usually someone there talking about birds and habitats, (and) someone simulates a stream to show how erosion works.”

The Tree Commission’s work continues after the spring event, as members have plans for the future. They are currently proposing the replacement of some of the tree grates along Long Street and 13th Street with paving bricks, as the trees are growing so large that the cement is now uneven, Lewis said.

“I think one of the things that would be great would be if there was more community input into the commission,” Lewis said. “There’s a lot of work that can be done and you can’t expect the same five or six people to do all the work, so it would be great for more of the community to get involved.”

Fentiman is enthusiastic about what commission members are doing as well.

“I’m excited about Main St. because those trees are getting really established. I’m anxious to see what they’re going to look like this spring,” he said. “(We will) continue moving forward and continue doing what we can to keep the urban forest growing in the right direction.”