Friday, November 9, 2018

New roots to honor veterans

By Andrea E. Petrich

As fall rain saturates our state, five new elm trees are soaking it all in, working to establish roots that will honor area veterans for years to come. But this story isn’t just about new trees, it’s about the long history of a symbolic tree-lined highway in Skagit County.

The beginning
In the 1930s, more than 150 elm trees were brought into Skagit County by train and planted along SR 536 – also known as Memorial Highway – in Mount Vernon to honor veterans who died in World War I.

As the population grew and land development expanded in the 1950s, many trees didn’t have proper room to grow. They became sick and hazardous, forcing crews to cut them down before they fell on their own and hurt someone.

The remaining elms
In early 2018, two of the original elms were still standing along SR 536 in front of the Net Drive-In, but like the others, they were dying due to development around them.
 In 2018, two original elms remained along SR 536 near The Net Drive-In

They had to come down. So one Sunday morning in March, our crews met up with arborists from Washington State Parks to safely cut these rotting trees and keep drivers and people in the area safe.
A Washington State Parks arborist
 finishes cutting down a dying
 elm tree along SR 536

But that’s not the end of the trees or our story.

Two large chunks of wood from each of these trees are now in the hands of a local veterans group who plan to use them in new ways – possibly as benches – to continue to honor area veterans.

Replanting to renew honor
When trees on our property need to be cut down, we look for new areas to plant replacements. An opportunity to regenerate the symbolism came to us thanks to a local veterans group and area Master Gardeners. They were finishing a campaign to replant 50 memorial trees – one for each of the Skagit County veterans who died in WWI – by the 100th anniversary of the end of the war, which happens to be this year.
Skagit County veteran Richard Sundance, who helped spearhead replanting efforts, watches as crews remove a dying elm along SR 536.

In late October some of my colleagues picked up five young elm trees from a local nursery and drove them over to what would become their new home in Edgewater Park off of SR 536. There, my teammates worked with Mount Vernon Parks and Recreation to plant these new trees, part of the group of 50 new trees honoring Skagit veterans who died during WWI.
Our crews help plant new elm trees near SR 536 in Skagit County.

As these five new elms – and their 45 fellow trees near Memorial Highway – spread their roots, we want to spread our thanks to the local groups who partnered with us on this project, and most importantly a giant thanks to the veterans and their families for their sacrifice and service.


Unknown said...

Thank you for telling the rest of this great story. I was born in 1944 in Mount Vernon. Over the years, I have heard the story of the trees & the reason for the naming of the highway commemorating those fallen soldiers. I appreciate the "renewing" of this honoring of those soldiers! It isn't often we hear these local remembrances.
Nancy L. Sager

Alfex said...

Great story. Thanks for posting. I am an Air Force vet.

WSDOT comment policy

Post a Comment