Regional Tree History

Marilyn Hyde
Kennewick Park Board
Mid-Columbia Community Forestry Council

The planting and care of trees in the Mid-Columbia region was paramount in the minds of our first settlers.  In 1904, the year Kennewick was incorporated; one of the first ordinances was to fine anyone $50 for damaging a tree.  They also included jail time but that was dropped.  The town planted trees on every plotted street and for sometime they were watered by hand.

Only six years later in the Feb 9, 1910 issue of the TWIN-CITY REPORTER an editorial stated that we had already started the damaging practice of topping those precious trees.  "At a meeting of the Commercial Club last night, C. A. Lundy, Geo F. Richardson and G. E. Hanson were appointed as a committee to wait upon the City Officials and protest against their method of pruning the shade trees along the streets.  Although the club had no expert advice it was the opinion of the members that the trees are being cut back too much."

On July 23, 1935 those trees that had been pruned to be wind catchers did just that and Kennewick lost over half of those trees.  The debate arouse again and again, the proponents of the Tri-City Chop won. The pruning job done after this windstorm was extremely severe.  In the summer of 1949 we had another very high wind and very few trees that had endured this pruning practice were still standing.

Because the settlers planted the only trees growing in this area, Arbor Day was a big occasion.  This article was in the April 12, 1912 edition of the Kennewick Courier.

 "WHOLE CITY OBSERVES ARBOR DAYIt is to be doubted if ever an Arbor Day was observed more fittingly and systematically than was the day in Kennewick yesterday. The task of planting 8,000 trees of various kinds along ten miles of the river front from the Hoyt place west of the city to the O. R. & N. bridge five miles east was taken up and carried through without a hitch.

Practically every able-bodied man in the city took advantage of the general holiday which had been declared and nine o'clock found the gangs marshaled at their stations along the river front ready for business.

The work was in charge of ten captains, with R. A. Oliver as marshal of the day.  Each captain had a mile of the stretch to oversee and each knew just what was to be done and how they were to do it, so there was no confusion.  The trees arrived from the Montana nursery on Wednesday morning in plenty of time to be sorted, apportioned and distributed to the various captains.

As if in commendation of the effort at beautifying our environs, old Mother Nature smiled and sent as perfect a day as one ever enjoyed.  It was a day to create in the cooped-up business man a desire to grab a shovel and get out-of-doors, even at the expense of a few blisters and a lame back the next day.

Generous lunches of sandwiches, hot coffee and doughnuts had been prepared by the women's clubs and were taken to scenes of the action in auto loads at noon s that none of planter had the opportunity to go home for lunch and forget to come back.

So far as possible the trees were set just inside the property line where in a majority of cases they will be watered, sprayed and properly cared for during their infancy.  All in all it was a job to be proud of and five or ten years from now, we may all drive along the river boulevard in our autos and swell with pride as we point to the magnificent ten-mile row of shade trees and say: "I helped put them there."

The committee on the Arbor Day plans made just one mistake---that of planning a big basket social as a wind-up of the day's celebration. They did not stop to reason that the average man, unused to manual labor, would have had about all the festivities he could stand for one day, by the time he had finished digging holes and planting a hundred or so trees.

So the basket social was very lightly attended and no attempt was made to auction off the baskets which had been prepared.  After a short band concert and some speech making the lunches were shared with the visiting Pasco delegation and everyone went home to get a well earned rest. 

Due to many reasons these trees were lost, mainly an extremely cold winter when coal was in very short supply and not delivered to Kennewick.  Consequently the trees were used for fuel.  High water and beavers also took their toll and McNary Dam construction finished off all but a very few.  One thing that hasn't died is the love of trees, the need for trees in our desert and the resolve to plant them.