Old Apple Tree, new fence

It's meant to preserve 185-year-old living legacy of area's Hudson's Bay era

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 
photoNational Park Service employee Cary Porter checks a fence post for plumb Thursday during the construction of a new fence around Vancouver's Old Apple Tree.

(/The Columbian)

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A permanent fence is going up around the Old Apple Tree, to help preserve the living legacy of Vancouver's Hudson's Bay era.

A maintenance crew from Fort Vancouver National Historic Site will be working on the fence for the next few days, and everything will be ready for the annual Old Apple Tree Festival on Saturday, Oct. 5.

The Old Apple Tree Research team, with local, regional and federal partners, has been working for several years to preserve the tree. The effort has included pruning to prevent further storm damage, as well as several types of grafting to initiate new growth.

"The team met in August and reviewed the tree's health, and it's very vigorous. The grafts are starting to take off," said Charles Ray, Vancouver's urban forester and a member of the research team.

Other members of the research team include National Park Service specialists and local businesses -- Collier Arbor Care, Joe's Place Farm and Arborscape Tree Care.

The grafting process started in 2010, and wasn't a total success, said Alex Patterson, chief of maintenance at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

After some of them were pulled off, the National Park Service and the city installed a temporary chain-link fence around the tree so the grafts could take root and thrive.

"At that time, we started designing and planning for a new fence," Patterson said.

The project had to meet design standards for the Vancouver National Historic Reserve. The result is a six-foot-tall steel fence, 24 feet long on each side, with the appearance of black wrought iron. The design was influenced by other metal fences in Vancouver's historic core, Patterson said.

The project in Old Apple Tree Park, at the south end of the Vancouver Land Bridge, cost less than $3,000.

"The funding came from admission fees at Fort Vancouver," Patterson said. "Visitors at the site are paying for it."

In addition to the protective measures, restorative work will continue on the tree, which is more than 185 years old.

"We will be looking at pruning in February and March," Ray said.

In April, the Park Service orchardist who has done the grafting will be invited back to check the progress of the Northwest's oldest apple tree.

Some of the prunings — known as scion wood — will be preserved in case they're needed for additional grafts.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com