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Trees will grow in Talent

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneTalent Middle School principal Kent Vallier shows where trees will be planted next to a lonely red maple between the track and classrooms.
Planting event Saturday intended as support for students affected by Almeda fire

Volunteers, including students, will spend Saturday planting over 70 trees at Talent’s elementary and middle schools.

The project was created by the city’s Urban Forestry Committee and supported by a $20,000 Arbor Day Foundation grant and other donations.

Helping Talent recover from the 2020 Almeda fire was the major impetus in applying for the Community Tree Recovery Program grant, said Mike Oxendine, chair of the Talent Urban Forestry Committee. Providing trees at the schools was a good way to give a message of support to students, many of whom were affected by the fire, said Oxendine.

“At the time we applied it was right after the fire. Most of the houses weren’t being rebuilt. There were not a lot of potential sites at that point. We were there to be participants in getting the ball rolling,” said Oxendine, explaining the selection of the schools as a project site.

The grant was awarded in February, one year after the application was made.

A major emphasis will be planting trees at the Talent Middle School athletic and play field area. That site currently has a lone red maple, Oxendine said. The trees will encircle much of the track at the fields, but also extend to other areas. Sixty-two trees will be planted at the middle school and 22 at the elementary school.

“We’re doing this to demonstrate and implement the myriad benefits of urban forestry for the community, and most specifically for students,” said Talent City Councilor Jason Clark, liaison of the Forestry Committee. “This is an opportunity for us to grow urban forests and urban foresters. We were really motivated by providing an opportunity for students to actively participate in the climate resiliency of their community.”

At Talent Middle School, “The Environment and Me” class taught by Lori LaMarche will be caring for the trees and will learn about them in the curriculum.

“I am encouraging students to come out, but I have no idea what the turnout will be,” said LaMarche. Tree species and their requirements, tree identification, deforestation and forest health are among topics LaMarche’s students study.

Talent Elementary Principal Heather Lowe Rogers said she knows students who plan to participate and expects to have a good number show up. Students from Phoenix High School will also take part for senior projects where they help the community, she said.

“Most of the tree species on the list will be legend trees. They are long-lived trees,” said Oxendine. Some of the species could live for up to 300 years.

Tree species will include valley oak, red oak, hickory, Zelkova, Kentucky coffee, bold cypress, giant sequoia, coastal redwood, Douglas fir, Jeffrey pine, Ponderosa pine and sugar pine. About 30% of the trees are conifers and 70% broad leaf deciduous trees. They will be mixed throughout the planting areas.

Volunteers will gather at the middle school at 10 a.m. for instructions on planting, which should take 15 to 20 minutes. Tools and gloves will be supplied, but participants should dress in work clothes and be ready for the weather.

Oxendine, a Plant Oregon employee, and colleagues from the company will teach the volunteers how to situate roots in the holes, balance the tree and turn it so it faces in the right direction. They’ll also learn how to backfill the holes.

Besides the main grant, other financial support is coming from a $2,500 grant from One Tree Planted, a $1,500 donation from Jeff and Joyce Schlect and a $1,000 donation from Jackson Soil and Water Conservation. The $26,000 total doesn’t cover all expenses, so Plant Oregon will cover the rest, about $15,000, Oxendine estimated.

Plant Oregon will auger the ground in advance to facilitate digging, bring in supplies, place the trees at their locations and create a drip irrigation system to sustain the plantings through the first three to five years of growth.

In 2019 the Urban Forestry Committee’s inaugural project planted 18 trees at the elementary school and 10 at the middle school.

A replanting at Talent Elementary will put in new burr oak at the corner of West Main Street and Wagner Avenue where a large burr oak needed to be removed due to a parasitic mistletoe infection that made it a hazard. The oak had been planted about 100 years ago as a memorial to servicemen in World War I.

The grant is not necessarily a one-and-done phenomenon from the foundation, said Oxendine. The committee will apply for another award under the program that could help rebuilding homeowners add trees to their properties.

Talent Urban Renewal Agency has a one-year program to provide such assistance, but the committee hopes that a grant from the foundation would add a second phase to that program.

For more information about the planting event, email Oxendine at arboristoxendine@gmail.com.

Reach Ashland freelance wrier Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.