May 15, 2002 11:00 pm

The La Grande annual tree-planting activity is almost concluded for the year, according to the city's urban forestry consultant Brian Kelly.

In all, 126 trees provided free by the city are being planted on city property and rights of way this spring, Kelly said. This includes 87 trees along streets and 39 in city parks.

Most of the trees were handed out April 27 to people who had requested them or volunteered to plant them. May 4 was the big tree-planting day for volunteers, Kelly said, with 25 volunteers planting 25 trees that day and 16 Cub Scouts and their parents planting nine more trees last Saturday.

Tree species planted this year included flowering hawthorn, flowering plum, honey locust, red oak, scarlet oak, Norway maple, hedge maple, red maple, green ash, autumn purple ash and Japanese tree lilac.

Kelly said that examples of this year's street tree plantings can be seen on Second Street between Adams and Washington avenues where 10 blieriana plums are planted, Washington Avenue between 14th and 15th streets with four scarlet oaks and four honey locusts, and at the corner of N Avenue and First Street where two Paul's Scarlet hawthorns and four sycamore maples were planted.

The trees are planted at the request of property owners who would like to have a tree in the right of way in front of their homes or to replace street trees that had to be removed because of hazards, insects, disease or other problems, Kelly said.

"We plant a wide variety of trees in order to match each tree to its planting site," Kelly said. "This species diversity is beneficial in minimizing future insect and disease problems that might affect some tree species and not others."

He said Dutch elm disease, the locust borer and bronze birch borer insects are examples of the problems that La Grande has experienced.

"Diversity also creates visual interest through variety in the colors, shapes, sizes and textures of our trees. The different varieties of flowering trees bloom at different times, prolonging the show of spring flower displays," Kelly said.

A variety of fall colors also adds interest in the autumn, he said.

Property owners who receive trees agree to take care of them after the plantings. They sign a tree maintenance agreement which includes watering and caring for the tree in the future.

Kelly and trained volunteers prune trees for the first several years after planting in order to develop good branch structure.

"Trees that are pruned well when young are stronger, safer, more attractive and less expensive to maintain in future years," Kelly said.

While the trees are provided free, residents can donate to the city tree fund, Kelly said.

People who want a tree next year should

call the Community Development Department, 962-1307.

— Ray Linker