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Students make wish, plant trees

Mayor Craig Dirksen helps students plant trees around the school grounds in celebration of Arbor Month
by: Geoff Pursinger, Luke Netzlof, a second-grader at Mary Woodward Elementary School, helps plant a tree April 8 as part of the city’s “100 Trees” project.

Who says the mayor needs to wear a suit and tie?

Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen showed up at Mary Woodward Elementary School in jeans, an old coat and a baseball cap on April 8, saying that he was ready to get his hands dirty.

As part of the cities annual Earth Day celebration, Dirksen and the Mary Woodward class of 2020 - also known as second graders - got together to plant the final half-dozen trees in the city's 100 Trees project, planting more than 8 dozen trees throughout the school's grounds.

'It's pretty dramatic,' said Mary Woodward Principal Victoria Foiles.

While the kids were away on spring break, workers planted 94 trees in front of the play area, out in the parking lot and around the school's perimeter.

They left the final six for the kids to do.

'It really brings it home,' said City Councilor Gretchen Buehner, who attended the event. 'Other kids next year can go out and see the trees and say we all planted these.'

Each student wrote a wish on a piece of biodegradable paper, which they placed with the trees, then the students took turns lifting - or attempting to lift - shovels full of soil, planting the trees and burying their wishes along with them.

The students study the environment, rainforests and the Earth as part of their second-grade curriculum, Foiles said. Each of the wishes was related to the helping the environment.

'It's so exciting to integrate this huge project with what they study,' she said. 'We won't have this opportunity every year, it's probably a 'once in a school's lifetime' event,' she said.

After the planting, the second-graders ran around the playground, showing each other which specific tree they had helped plant.

'This is way more fun than a City Council meeting,' Dirksen said.

Trees are a big deal for the city, which is quickly growing into its borders.

With a large developed area, the city is running out of open spaces to plant trees, Dirksen said, which makes places like Mary Woodward Elementary so important.

It's all part of the city's plan to improve their urban forest.

Last year the city chose Alberta Rider Elementary to plant about the same number of trees, Dirksen said.

All together Tigard planted 13,000 trees last year, according to Todd Prager, the city arborist.

'Assuming the mature canopy of a tree is about 30 feet, on average that's more than 200 acres of canopy when they mature,' he said. 'That's about 2½ times the size of Cook Park. In one year we've made a significant contribution to our urban forest.'

Including maple, cedar, ash, ponderosa pine, red cedar, pear and crabapple trees, the 100 Trees project was paid for through development fees imposed when trees are cut down in order to build roads, houses and buildings, Prager said. The money is then pooled to plant trees in places where there isn't much canopy.

Marissa Daniels, who planned the event at Mary Woodward, said that this school was the perfect choice for Arbor Day.

'Mary Woodward herself, was known as the 'Arbor Day Lady,'' she said. 'She'd actually collect a penny from all of the first-graders and plant a tree for that class each year.'

The students were each given a small seedling from the city to take home and plant in their own yards.

In return, the 75 students each put a green thumbprint on a large painting of a tree, which they donated to the city. The thumbprints became the tree's leaves.

They also gave the city a handmade book, written by the students titled 'A Tree is Nice.'

Each page featured a hand-written reason why the second-graders loved trees.

'A tree is nice,' one student wrote 'because you can water it and play pirates.'

The 100 Trees project at Mary Woodward is just one of several things that the city is doing during Arbor Month - Dirksen proclaimed the entire month of April as Arbor Month, not content with celebrating the importance of trees during just one day - including an event with SOLV-IT, pulling ivy at Mary Woodward Elementary School on April 17 at 9 a.m., and events at the Tigard library April 27 and 6 and 7:30 p.m.

For more information on the events, visit the city of Tigard Web site, www.tigard-or.gov.

The national Arbor Day is April 30.