PAGE UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6, 2011 9:08 AM PDT
Forest grows by 3,000 new fir seedlings
Tim Truax (top), chairman for the 66th Tree Plant Day event, enjoys a photo op with students from Highland Elementary School. From left are: Madison Tresth, Ali Carter, Kendahl Olson, Billee Hiatt, Katelynn Laird, Emily Enfield, McKayla Taylor, Alan Page, Taylor Bennett and Mitchell Rohde.
By Lori Newman, Editor
Highland Elementary School’s fifth- and sixth-graders joined forces with students in grades 4-6 from Elkton Charter School last Wednesday to enrich the forest by more than 3,000 tree seedlings during the 66th annual Lower Umpqua Schools Tree Plant Day.
The event took place on a tract of U.S. Forest Service land up on Scare Ridge, about nine miles up Weatherly Creek Road above Scottsburg. Approximately 150 children participated in planting the young Douglas firs, according to Doris Hedges, who has helped organize Tree Plant Day for many years.
Adults from the various forest agencies and some parents spent the morning working in the rich soil as they planted. Tim Truax, chairman of the Lower Umpqua Schools Tree Plant Committee demonstrated the correct way to plant the 2-year-old trees, and talked about why the plantings are done the way they are.
Then the students were off with shovels and bags of trees to plant.
After spending a very busy morning planting their seedlings, the children were bused back down the mountain to Scottsburg Park at noon, to enjoy the event’s traditional hot dog lunch, Hedges reported. Blair Sneddon and Bill Brown, Highland Elementary’s head custodian, were assisted by a crew of volunteers who served around 600 hot dogs to the students, as well as drinks and ice cream to the hungry tree planters and their adult helpers.
Hedges received one of the biggest surprises of the day when the 2011 Tree Plant Committee presented her with a plaque, honoring her 30-plus years of service as an enthusiastic committee member.
As a youngster in the 1950s, Hedges remembers being a student tree planter. She first wrote about and photographed the event for the Courier �” then the local newspaper �” in 1976. Hedges said she believes the Lower Umpqua Tree Plant Day is the longest running event of its kind in the nation.
“And I know that each student who has been a part of the day will always remember it,” she said.
Hedges thanked Roseburg Resources and the Bureau of Land Management for their major support of the event. She then thanked all of the volunteers who came out to help the students plant their seedlings.
Tree Plant Day was first held in 1946 when Reedsport area school children went to a site just above Winchester Bay and planted trees. The event was founded by John Skaaluren, who was serving as Reedsport’s mayor at the time.
Back in the 1940s, people from the community came out to cook the hot dogs over camp stoves while the planting went on, and the tradition has continued for 66 years, Hedges said.
In 1996, on the 50th anniversary of Lower Umpqua Tree Plant Day, she published a 125-page book about the event, called “Following the Pied Piper: The first 50-year history of the Lower Umpqua school children's annual tree plant day.”
Joann Laskey is another alumnus of the event’s early days who helped out last week. She was a young pupil in 1946, and planted seedlings for the very first Lower Umpqua Schools Tree Plant Day event. She participated again this year with her son and grandson �” Don and fifth-grader Clay Laskey.
At least 35,000 students have planted more than a million trees in the Lower Umpqua area since 1946. The event has received several National Arbor Day awards over the years.