by Dave Erickson, Wenatchee Parks & Recreation Dept.

Think of the greater Wenatchee area with only sagebrush, rabbit brush and native grasses. It is not as appealing, is it?

Trees are an essential part of the urban environment, helping moderate the summer heat with shade, break the cold winter winds and clean the air of dust. Trees provide us with the aesthetic pleasure of color and blooms — and we don’t want to forget that trees create habitat.

For more than 22 years, the Greater Wenatchee Arbor Day Association has observed Arbor Day by rallying volunteers throughout the region to help educate tree owners on proper pruning techniques and to provide information on tree selection, planting and care.

A highlight of their efforts is their program to acquire and distribute trees to community members. Each year more than 100 community volunteers pack and distribute 3,300 trees at seven distribution sites in North Central Washington. These include: Wenatchee, Chelan, Cashmere, Orondo, Entiat, Manson and Leavenworth. Through this program over 2,200 volunteers have helped distribute more than 72,000 trees and educate countless other tree stewards in the region. Tree stewards are also provided with planting and care information so they can select and plant the right tree in the right location. Program volunteers are made up of individuals and organizations including: City tree Boards and Departments, Public Utility District, AmeriCorps, scout groups, private businesses, Master Gardner’s, schools, Washington State University’s Extension and several other organizations.

The Association meets several times prior to and after the distribution event in April to recruit volunteers, secure packing locations, obtain donations, and promote the event.

The Associations focus has changed over the years as the region has changed. The type of trees made available has evolved as houses are now more likely built on smaller lots, and big trees don’t fit in the smaller yards.

It’s amazing to see the impacts that this group of dedicated individuals has made to the region, not only through the trees that have been provided and planted but also through improved planting and care that resulted from this, now-traditional program. Without their efforts, the region could look and be significantly different than it is today.

council award wenatchee 2013
Members of the Greater Wenatchee Arbor Day Committee were recognized for their great work by the Washington Community Forestry Council this May. From left: Dave Erickson, Bonnie Orr, Nena Howell, Bill Sanborn, Scott Ballard