Friends of Manito hold guided tree tours in Spokane

Ed Lester loves trees. Behind his quiet articulate demeanor is a passion for all things leafy and green.

“It’s a bit of an obsession,” Lester says. “I found that Spokane has very interesting trees in terms of variety and size.”

For the last five years, the retired orthopedic surgeon turned master gardener has taught himself to identify trees. He “studies” them every day in public parks and on private land.

He even knocks on strangers doors and asks to “spend some time” with the monstrous oak or beautiful maple in the yard. As a hobby, Lester is cataloging “champion trees”— the largest tree species of their kind in Washington State.

He raves about rare Hungarian linden trees in John A. Finch Arboretum, vibrant Miyabe maple trees, mighty Colorado white firs, and a golden weeping willow on 42nd Avenue and Ray, which he thinks is the biggest of its kind in the state.

This year, for the first time ever, Lester has used his passion for trees to create a guided tree tour of Manito Park.

Manito in the Fall.

He belongs to The Friends of Manito, a nonprofit organization that raises funds and provides educational outreach for the sprawling South Hill Park. Lester’s first two-hour tree tour was given to approximately 30 people in April.

“The tour provides a map and orientation to trees in the park, so visitors can return for self-guided tours and study on their own,” Lester says. “My hope is that many people will become fully familiar with the park.”

Tour-goers receive a map of the four-part tour and a handout of trees specific to each section.

Lester hopes the tree tour will do more than simply navigate visitors throughout the park.

“The more you are familiar with what is around you, the more you see,” he says. “The more you see, the more you appreciate what is around you.”

“If people become knowledgeable about their environment, hopefully, they will take better care of it.”

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