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Ashland trees: how lovely are thy branches?

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In preparation for Ashland’s improved annual Arbor Day event, voting for the 2019 Tree of the Year is underway. Until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, Ashland residents can pick from four publicly nominated trees.

The winner will be announced at the Arbor Day event from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, April 5.

Each fall an open nomination allows residents to nominate their favorite candidates for Tree of the Year.

This year the Tree Commission has narrowed down the nominations to four finalists, which can be found at https://bit.ly/2YjCIZk. Voters can take a virtual tour of the trees’ locations and read why they were nominated.

Voting can be done online, and paper ballots are available at the Planning Department, 51 Winburn Way.

The four finalists are:

  • 588 Holly St. — ponderosa pine, “a case of unusual work by Mother Nature”
  • 965 Bellview Ave. — giant sequoia, described as “majestic” and “hobbit-like”
  • 243 Fourth St. — cork oak, a downtown tree “that needs protection”
  • Scenic Drive and Church Street — oak, its canopy “provides a place to sit when one walks up Church Street.

City Senior Planner Derek Severson, the staff liaison to the Tree Commission, said the commission tries to select trees on private property as opposed to ones maintained by professionals on city or park property.

“For the commissioners, it’s a great opportunity because so much of what they do is in a regulatory role, and with the contest, they get to celebrate something,” Severson said.

This year, 11 trees were nominated by the public.

Peter Finkle nominated the ponderosa pine and said he originally wondered whether the tree had served as a Native American marker, but after further research he found the unique bend in the branch most likely formed naturally.

Finkle said indigenous people used to bend branches in the direction of a water source, campsite, river crossing or something similarly helpful, but those marker branches usually would sit about 3 to 6 feet off the ground, and this branch sits more than 10 feet off the ground. Nonetheless, he said he learned something new from the tree.

“I think it was sculpted by Mother Nature rather than man,” Finkle said.

“But how can it compete with a majestic sequoia that’s hobbit like?” Finkle asked as he viewed the voting tallies on the other trees.

Arbor Day events

Improving urban tree canopy is a high priority for Ashland as a certified Tree City, Parks Superintendent Mike Oxendine said.

Oxendine said this year the Tree Commission partnered with the City Parks and Planning departments and have received in-kind grants to purchase about 16 large oak varieties and tilia cordata trees to plant on Arbor Day at a city event.

The event, from 12 to 2 p.m. at the Oak Knoll Golf Course, 3070 Highway 66, seeks to educate people about the correct way to plant and maintain trees in an urban setting, Oxendine said.

“In planting trees in the urban environment, it’s really important that we do it correctly, and we need to know where we’re getting the trees from,” he said. “If we can use acclimated trees grown here in the valley, they’re going to stand more of a chance of survival for the long term.”

Oregon Community Trees, of which Oxendine is a board member, has donated $500 to the tree planting demonstration, and Plant Oregon Nursery in Talent will donate the rest of the in-kind funds needed to purchase the trees. Oxendine said donations equate to about $3,750.

OCT President Samantha Wolf said the organization works to support urban and community forestry activities and will donate a $3,600 in grants this year to various Oregon Tree Cities for Arbor Day.

“Trees provide habitat for wildlife, products that we all use, clean air and water, reduce crime rates, and improve community vitality and well-being,” Wolf said. “Arbor Day is an effort to spread awareness and appreciation for all trees in our communities, and the imperative to protect and manage a vital resource.”

City staff and volunteers will facilitate the tree-planting demonstrations at 17 locations at the Oak Knoll Golf Course, Oxendine said.

The planting of oak trees is environmentally friendly because of the shade and other benefits they provide, while the tilia cordata species will provide vital habitat for pollinators.

Oxendine said the city is trying for an Audubon accreditation for the golf course, and these plantings are a step in the right environmental direction.

“We’re trying to increase the different offerings that Oak Knoll has because it’s a part of our park system,” Oxendine said. “I want to add some canopy coverage.”

Trees with large canopies “cool the earth and the surrounding areas, and we get tons of environmental service from them, and they help us beat climate change,” Oxendine said.

Also, on Arbor Day, the city will receive its certification as a Tree City for the 34th year, and local arborist Chris John will receive the Oregon Community Trees Individual Award.

Oxendine said it’s not often that someone from Southern Oregon wins the statewide award, but this will be the second year in a row.

He said he’s expecting about 100 people or more to attend.

For more information about the event, see AshlandParksandRec.org, email ParksInfo@ashland.or.us or call 541-488-5340.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Parks Superintendent Mike Oxendine and Senior Planner Derek Severson describe Arbor Day related events going on now.{ }Ashland Tidings / Caitlin FowlkesThumbnail
Volunteers plant trees at the 2015 planting ceremony at Ashland Creek Park. Photo courtesy of Ashland planning department.