Give some thought to the future: plant a tree! The Noon Rotary Club of Walla Walla has taken that advice to heart, planting thousands of trees over the years.
Rotary schedules two planting events per year, in early spring and fall. Club President-elect Skip Cundiff said the plantings have been very well-received, and are among their most popular projects.
When members come out to plant trees, they often bring their families, and it becomes a festive event. At the most recent planting, on March 23 — in conjunction with Boy Scout Troop 333 — 20-25 people showed up to Howard Tietan Park, planting 50 trees in about an hour.
After the 2008 windstorm, Rotary helped plant new trees to replace many of the giant trees uprooted at Mountain View Cemetery. They’ve also planted trees at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds, Pioneer Park and Berney Elementary School. Cundiff said the club received a grant from the Sherwood Trust to help facilitate replacing trees lost in the storm.
Rotary has partnered with City of Walla Walla personnel, as well as working with other groups, such as 4-H.
“We continue to work with Rotary; it’s a great program,” said Jim Dumont, city of Walla Walla Parks and Recreation director.
Walla Walla is designated a Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation, so “tree planting is important. Those same ladies that started the parks and civic clubs started the tree planting,” said Dumont.
The cooperative effort between Rotary and city employees works well, as the city has the equipment to efficiently dig the holes for plantings.
“If you have a Kubota with an auger, you can dig the hole very quickly. Often the roots are wrapped in burlap or in a wire mesh and they have to cut that off,” said project chairman Sam Wells .
After they’re planted, the new trees are staked so they are protected from the wind. The trunks are also wrapped with corrugated plastic to protect them from overly enthusiastic squirrels that tend to tear up the trunks of new trees.
“The wrap also protects the tree from sun scald,” Wells said. The sun coming out and hitting a frozen tree trunk will damage it and slow its future growth.
Depending on the tree and location, installers might set up a berm to assist with water retention for the life of the tree. Fortunately Wells comes to this job with plenty of experience. His parents owned a nursery and he worked there for years.
Decisions about placement and the appropriate types of trees for a given location are made by a group of people, said Wells.
“We meet with the city — with Jim Dumont and Joan Schille — and we decide in a group setting. It often depends on availability, where and what tree is appropriate. When we plant on the city grounds, the city is responsible for maintaining the ground. We pick what will suit them.”
These decisions impact the city budget, as maintenance is a concern: “Is the space wide enough to get their 8-foot mower through?” Wells said.
Part of Rotary’s overall strategy is to plant trees to maintain their numbers in an area as the older trees reach the end of their life spans. “It’s in a 3-to-1 ratio to replace the trees that are lost,” Dumont said. “We have about 10,000 trees on the streets and in the parks.” The trees that replace the old giants probably aren’t going to be the same variety. “When we give a permit to replace it’s usually a smaller tree,” said Dumont.
The presence of electrical lines overhead is the first consideration when choosing what type of tree to plant. Trees planted along streets with power lines and small spaces to grow are selected to fit the space available. If power lines are there, only a Class 1 tree, which grows no more than 25 feet tall, can be put in that space. Other classes of trees are: Class 2 (40 feet tall); Class 3 (70 feet tall); and Class 4 (80 feet tall and taller).
The large Norway maples planted all around Pioneer Park illustrate this process. Because of overhead power lines along Alder Street, “as those trees continue to deteriorate, we aren’t going to be able to replant Norway maples,” Dumont said. If you look at aerial photos of Walla Walla in 1950 and compare them to 2013, there’s not as much canopy now as there was back then. New trees aren’t the same type as the giant trees planted there long ago; they are smaller varieties.
Individual trees are selected not by age but by the measure of the trunk, ranging from 1 inch to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. “Some are bare-root trees. The small ones are probably 8-10 years old,” Wells said.
The young trees typically get their start at one of several nurseries in the region. “Historically we’ve gotten the trees locally through a wholesale nursery; they were donated,” said Wells. “The nursery is no longer in business. Now we have purchased trees from a wholesale Oregon nursery and a local retail nursery. It depends on who’s got what and what we need for the placement.”
The 50 new trees planted in Howard Tietan Park include very colorful species. “Thirty of those are flowering trees, planted just inside the park from the sidewalks. We are having to remove the 18 existing crab apple trees in the parking strip,” Dumont said. An apple maggot was found there, and crab apple trees are hosts for apple maggots. The 18 trees will be removed around May 1. “We wanted to replace the color and aesthetic value. Our goal is to plant large canopy trees where ever possible,” he said. But sometimes they are unable to, and the tree must be a smaller variety.
Several types of trees pose specific problems. For example, fruit trees attract harmful insects. “We’re an apple county. We don’t want any fruit trees in the parks we can’t maintain,” Wells said. Invasive insects like apple maggots would love to overwinter in an unmaintained fruit tree and then attack the orchards in the spring.
And old silver maples can be hazardous to passersby. These trees tend to rot from the inside out, so it wouldn’t be obvious if a rotten trunk or limb were about to break off and fall.
But once the appropriate type and size of tree is chosen, “right plant, right place and it will do well,” Wells said.
The master plan of urban forestry includes the need for ongoing tree planting. With many of the old trees in Walla Walla reaching their last stages of life, the concentrated, combined effort at replanting will guarantee a future with beautiful, shady trees.