Amanda Weisbrod

As Monday was Earth Day and Friday is Arbor Day, it’s only fitting that this week would be filled with tree-planting events in Union County.

In La Grande, the Urban Forestry Division of La Grande’s Parks & Recreation Department is selling trees for $30 to citizens who want to put a tree in the city’s right-of-way area near their home. These tree planting events happen twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, to meet a requirement for Tree City USA, a program recognizing cities for “their excellence in urban forest management,” according to its website.

Teresa Gustafson, a tree care educator within the Urban Forestry Division, said as of Monday, she still has 25 trees for sale out of the 65 she has set aside for the tree planting event, which will take place on Saturday.

“The goal for (La Grande’s) urban forestry is to plant 100 trees a year,” said Gustafson, adding that any remaining trees may be purchased after Saturday, and residents may add their names to the list for her fall order. “We try to target neighborhoods that maybe have lower canopy cover because the goals for the street tree planting program are to increase the diversity of the trees that we have to make the forest more resilient and to increase overall canopy cover.”

Planting trees is important to a community for a number of reasons, according to Gustafson. First, they offer shade in urban areas that feature mostly concrete. Trees also raise property values, motivate people to spend time outside and, most important, produce fresh air to breathe.

“There are a whole host of benefits people don’t think about,” she said. “Trees make an area more attractive, and people need nature. It’s good for us.”

La Grande’s Urban Forestry is also hosting a field day from noon to 2 p.m. Friday at Pioneer Park, where fourth- and fifth-grade students can visit seven different stations to learn about proper tree care and planting techniques.

“One of our stations is the wildlife biologist from Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. She’s going to do a station on native pollinators,” Gustafson said. “We’ll also have a tree walk with tree ID, and we’ll have a station where kids are going to learn more about the benefits of trees in an urban forest.”

Also in La Grande, Eastern Oregon University is holding its own tree planting event Friday to celebrate its third year as a Tree Campus USA. People will gather on University Boulevard beneath the Tree Campus USA flag at 10 a.m. to plant a tree, according to an EOU press release.

David Yoder, campus grounds crew member and certified arborist, said this year they’ve chosen to plant a Friendship Tree, which grew from a ginkgo seed that survived the nuclear bombing in Hiroshima.

“He’ll join fellow committee members at the Arbor Day celebration to raise the Tree Campus USA flag and give a brief State of the Campus Trees Address,” the press release stated. “Then the group will plant the Friendship Tree near Inlow Hall.”

Yoder spoke highly of the Friendship Tree’s symbolic value in the press release.

“The parent tree survived the blast, and as a sign of peace and friendship, this tree will grow on our soil,” he said.

In Elgin, the local Lions Club purchased 10 flowering crabapple and pear trees to donate to businesses in the city’s downtown area, according to Everett Grandeen, a Lions Club member.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer