“Imagine tree-lined streets enhancing the beauty of your Olympia neighborhood,” read the flyer from the City of Olympia. That was 16 years ago. Since then our SW Olympia neighborhood is on its way to becoming one of the loveliest and most walkable parts of the city. Pacific Sunset maples joined other species that have grown into tall trees that arch over our streets. providing shade and shelter in summer and etching the sky in winter.
For 10 years from 1998 to 2008 the City of Olympia provided free street trees through a program called Neighborwoods. The city would provide the sidewalk-friendly trees if the homeowner attended a tree care workshop. This attracted people in our neighborhood who had already benefited from a 1992 American Forestry grant that the Neighborhood Association used to plant garry oaks up and down 6th Avenue and acer maples on 5th.
On my street, there were several old, diseased flowering plums. Rick Walk and I attended a workshop and talked to city staff. They came out to help remove the diseased trees and pre-dig holes for new trees. We then selected select new trees suitable for our location.
Then in November 2003 we decided to organize a neighborhood-wide tree planting with the City of Olympia. We checked in with neighbors to find out if they were interested in free street trees and invited them to an evening information visit. We coordinated with the city to plant all the trees in one day. We started on 11th Court SW, moved north onto
Decatur and 4th, and then to Percival. In all that day, we planted 37 street trees at over 14 homes. It was a fun way to get to know our neighbors blocks away.
To celebrate 10 years of the Neighborwoods program, the City of Olympia organized another one-day event with the goal of planting 1,000 street trees. Neighborhood associations across the city (12 in all) came out on March 29, 2008 to help one another plant trees. The extraordinary effort by the two-person staff at the City of Olympia educated, organized, and united neighbors across the city. The foresight of planting the young street trees will prove to be an asset to the neighborhoods for generations to come.
There is another reason to celebrate: according to the US Energy Information Administration by the time these trees reach 25 years, every one living will have sequestered 400 lbs of carbon.
Note: The City ended the Neighborwoods program several years ago.
Kara Walk lives in the SW neighborhood with husband, two daughters and a dog. She planted a lot of trees.