Volunteers bring the oldest U.S. public arboretum of state trees back to life.

SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO -  In November 2016 crews of volunteer arborists took to the Grove of the States to prune overgrown trees, remove dead ones and replant with heartier varieties in preparation for the groves 50th anniversary. Nature and history lovers gathered at the Grove of the States Aug. 28 for the induction of Oregon's latest Heritage Trees.

At the I-5 southbound French Prairie Rest Area near Wilsonville, the grove was originally planted in 1967 and was created as a part of the Highway Beautification Act and contained 53 official state trees from around the U.S. However, the planters failed to plan for future growth, development and climate sensitivity of the trees, causing the grove to fall into disarray with some sections dying and others growing out of control.

In honor of the grove's 50th anniversary this year, the Oregon Travel Information Council (Oregon Travel Experience) and its partners at the Oregon Department of Forestry, Friends of Trees and Oregon State University decided to work to save the grove and return it to its former glory. Except this time, arborists were careful to plant trees with the appropriate amount of space to grow and the ability to thrive in Oregon's climate, according to Annie von Domitz, restoration manager of the grove.

The brunt of the work was completed this past November when about two dozen volunteer arborists descended on the grove to implement its restoration. Starting by pruning overgrown sections and removing diseased or dead trees, the arborists replanted heartier varieties of trees from around the nation.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett and members of the Oregon Travel Information Council all came out to celebrate with the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee as the grove was inducted as Oregon Heritage Trees.

Although the restoration process still isn't over. The construction of a new path and the installation of signage giving information about the grove is scheduled for this fall. Von Domitz says that the grove's restoration wouldn't have been possible without the outpouring of volunteers' time and donors'generosity.

Contact Wilsonville Spokesman

reporter Claire Green at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or [email protected]

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