Boy Scouts give Woodland orchard new look

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WOODLAND — Fresh fall apples and crunchy walnuts await visitors at the newly refurbished Guild-Klady Centennial Farm. In partnership with the Port of Woodland, Boy Scout Troop 531 recently completed a seven-month project to restore the 140-year old orchard, which had been overgrown and decaying for years.

Troop 531 — with financial help from the port, which owns the property — restored the orchard so the public can pick apples, walnuts, pears, plums, cherries and other fruits for free. Port staff hope that one day high school students will be able to harvest an extra bounty from the orchard to donate to local food banks.

The one-acre orchard is at 1620 Guild Road, nestled in the future home of the Guild Road Industrial Park, where the port hopes to attract new, light industrial clients. The project will also provide an alternative greenspace to meet city requirements for landscaping of new developments.

The port purchased the property, including the orchard, in 2011 with the intent of incorporating it into the industrial park. But port commissioners wanted to preserve some of the land’s history. Previously owned by the homesteading Guild-Klady family, the orchard was established in 1878 and later recognized as a heritage orchard by WSU Vancouver.

“We felt that this was a good element for the port to ensure that we’re not just in the market of bulldozing and destroying the agricultural industry,” said Jennifer Keene, executive director of Port of Woodland. “We wanted to ensure that future generations know … these orchards were a part of our economic past and that agriculture is part of our economic future.”

The troop spent the summer replanting trees, adding 200 feet of walking trails, installing benches, laying concrete and crafting a handmade, wooden sign and information placards. The restoration was led by troop members Will Buttrell, Noah Kuykendall and Angus Moir. By completing the work, each of the trio earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

With little direction from adults, the three teens were responsible for researching horticultural and historical information, securing donations and coordinating the manual labor of their 20 fellow troop members.

From July to early September, Will said he spent all of his Saturdays on the project.

“It was more work than I thought it was going to be,” said Will, 16, with a laugh. “I learned a lot of leadership in this experience. My tendency is kind of to let someone else take over and do stuff, and because this was my project, I had to learn to take control.”

Will crafted a wood sign and rustic-style bench marking the orchard entrance. He and Angus collaborated on an informational placard with historical photos. Angus, 16, also researched the horticultural heritage of the site to ensure the new plants (two plum trees and one apple tree) didn’t hinder the growth of existing trees. Noah, 17, coordinated the restoration of the trails and built three benches.

The work was funded with $5,000 from the port and community donations, including donations of trees from the Guild-Klady family.

Originally, the port had hoped to finish the project by the summer, but wet weather delayed the start of the work, Keene said. Now, the port is excited to the project is complete and ready to offer a ripe piece of Woodland’s history for the picking.