Hough kids join in Arbor Day celebration

Vancouver named 'Tree City' for 23rd year

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Visit Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation's Urban Forestry website or call 360-487-8308.

Visit Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation’s Urban Forestry website or call 360-487-8308.

When Oliver Sasse planted a blue spruce many years ago, it stood just a few feet high.

Today, he said, pausing to catch his emotions, it’s more than 70 feet tall and has a diameter of well over 4 feet. It’s been an incredible feeling, he said, to watch that evergreen grow and change throughout his life.

“They live and die, just like people do — but during their lifetimes, they give back,” Sasse, 72, told the dozens of people, including a group of Hough Elementary students, who gathered at City Hall on Wednesday to celebrate Arbor Day. “I want to look to you, the future, to plant trees.”

Sasse’s story — and the enthusiasm for tree planting shared by the youngsters at Wednesday’s event — reflected the theme “Rooted in the Past, Growing for the Future.” For his efforts as the Airport Green neighborhood’s go-to tree planting guy, Sasse was among several Vancouver residents to win a Gordon and Sylvia MacWilliams Evergreen Award.

Mayor Tim Leavitt accepted a Tree City USA award on behalf of the city. Vancouver is one of 83 cities in Washington to receive the designation this year.

“We’ve won this award for 23 years — that’s almost as long as I’ve been alive,” quipped Leavitt, 41. “Help us earn this award 23 more years in a row. Ask your mom and dad, your grandma and grandpa or members of your family if you can go out and plant a tree.”

Clark Public Utilities also got its 13th annual Tree Line USA award for maintaining and planting trees along utility routes.

The passel of youngsters looked ready to uproot and do some running during the speeches, and excitedly swarmed outside City Hall to help plant this year’s official Arbor Day tree, a deciduous green vase Zelkova. The tree is the first to be planted as part of Arbor Day festivities at the new City Hall, which city staff occupied last year.

Each kid took a turn grabbing gold-plated shovels and joined Leavitt in heaping soil on the small tree’s roots.

Among them was 8-year-old Maddy Pelico, who joined a group of classmates in chanting that the outing was “awesome.”

“It was awesome, we got to put dirt on the tree,” she said, looking up at the Zelkova that already stands well over 7 feet tall. “I want to know if I could grow as tall as it.”

Other Arbor Month related events include a workshop on proper pruning and tree care from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at Marshall Community Center, Elm Room, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd.; and training for the NeighborWoods Stewards program, which starts Tuesday, May 8.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://www.twitter.com/col_cityhall; andrea.damewood@columbian.com.