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City plants trees for Arbor Day, honors top environmentalists

By Warren Kagarise
Issaquah Press
Issaquah leaders gathered on a less-than-springlike day April 16 to observe Arbor Day and plant a grove to honor Ruth Kees and the community’s other top environmentalists.

Like the top environmental honor in the city, the grove is named for the late Kees. The bespectacled environmentalist fought for decades to protect Issaquah Creek, Tiger Mountain and the Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer from development-related threats.

The grove is set amid hundreds of other saplings in city parkland along Issaquah Creek.

Former Councilman David Kappler, plus environmentalists, Joanna Buehler, Ken Konigsmark and Janet Wall — all past Ruth Kees Environmental Award for a Sustainable Community recipients — participated in the planting. Overall, about 20 people joined Mayor Ava Frisinger and the honorees for the ceremony.

Together, city leaders and residents planted conifers to symbolize the 10 Ruth Kees award recipients on a gray morning at Squak Valley Park North south of downtown Issaquah.

The city breached a Great Depression-era levee at the site last summer, and then Mountains to Sound Greenway volunteers planted more than 2,000 trees and shrubs at the site in October. The grove is meant to stand out from the other flora.

“We didn’t want it to blend into the creekside planting,” city Arborist Alan Haywood said. “We do want it to be its own distinct element.”

The participants dipped shovels into the mud to plant Alaskan weeping cedar, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, Western red cedar and a half-dozen other tree species at the long-planned grove off of Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast near the southern city line.

Organizers planned to add 10 trees at the site, but Haywood rejected a shore pine due to root problems.

City Open Space Steward Matt Mechler said the planting event — plus additional efforts to improve the park and other city open space — rely on thousands of volunteer hours each year.

The grove honors both citizen activists and elected leaders. Plans call for the area to include a trail, decorative rock features and a small patio or courtyard featuring recipients’ names engraved on paver stones. Mechler is receiving help from Boy Scouts to complete the trail.

Former Councilwoman Maureen McCarry received the most recent Ruth Kees award in a ceremony last month.

Past recipients received the honor for efforts to establish the Mountains to Sound Greenway, blaze trails in the Issaquah Alps and protect Issaquah waterways. Leaders singled out McCarry for efforts to preserve the Park Pointe site on Tiger Mountain and for shaping the city’s hillside urban villages.

The planting also served another purpose. The city is required to observe Arbor Day in order continue as a Tree City USA. The honor from the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes cities dedicated to community forestry. Issaquah has been a Tree City for 17 consecutive years.

About Arbor Day

National Arbor Day is held the last Friday in April; several states, including Washington, observe the holiday at a time best suited for tree planting. In the Evergreen State, people observed Arbor Day on or about April 13.

Americans started planting trees on Arbor Day in 1872. Nebraska City, Neb., resident, civic leader and agriculturist J. Sterling Morton urged Nebraskans to “set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit.” The tree-planting holiday became popular and, by 1920, more than 45 states and U.S. territories annually celebrated Arbor Day. Nowadays, the tree-planters’ holiday is observed in 50 states and in many countries around the globe.

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