It seems as though there has recently been some controversy and misinformation circulating about the trees on Legion Way.
As a member of the Legion Way Planning Team, I would like to take this opportunity to clear up some of the misunderstandings about the Legion Way Stewardship Project, and invite the community to celebrate the trees on this historic street on Veterans Day.
The Red Oak, Pin Oak and Sweetgum trees were originally planted in honor of local veterans who fought in the Spanish-American War and World War I. They were planted on Legion Way, from Eastside Street to Central Street, as part of an Armistice Day celebration on November 11, 1928.
As they have matured, they have created a wonderful canopy over Legion Way that I myself have enjoyed for many years.
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Unfortunately, decades ago the trees on the north side of the street were topped because of overhead utility lines, and subsequently, the trees on the south side were also topped for uniformity. Most of the utility lines were shifted off Legion Way by 1988, but we now know that topping these magnificent trees caused irreversible damage.
When topped, the trees naturally responded by quickly sprouting new branches and leaves near where the tops had been removed. Simultaneously, rot started developing in the main trunk, because the trees could not stop the rot that developed from the massive cut.
Over time, the sprouts have grown into massive, trunk-size branches, which are getting heavier every year. Combined with the advancing decay, many of the trees have become unstable and dangerous.
Every year, some of the great branches have broken off, endangering people and property along the street. Twenty two percent of the existing trees already have been removed and replaced in the last few years because they had some type of failure.
Replacement ensures the historic character of the street is maintained.
The Olympia City Council is concerned about this issue, and two members, myself and Council member Jeannine Roe, are members of a Legion Way Planning Team that is working with staff to address these problems and provide some long-term solutions.
Our goal is to save the exceptional Legion Way corridor for the foreseeable future, rather than continuing the haphazard and emergency-driven reaction to colossal tree limbs falling into the street, and on houses and cars.
The city’s urban forester, in consultation with an independent arborist, has identified 23 trees that present an immediate danger to the public and must be removed. At the same time, 60 percent of the original trees (76 trees) will be pruned and maintained as long as possible as part of a long-term stewardship plan.
The City of Olympia will be hosting a celebration for Veterans Day, Nov. 11 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Legion Way. We have invited the military and veteran groups to the celebration that will include planting new, strong, healthy oaks to replace the removed trees. The Veterans Day celebration will be an opportunity to honor wonderful, tree-lined Legion Way.
In support of this effort, the Eastside Neighborhood Association (www.eastside-olympia.org) has graciously agreed to accept donations for the purchase of new trees.
Several of us, myself included, have already contributed to purchase the next generation of trees, and we welcome donations from citizens who love the trees along our unique and beautiful Legion Way.
I encourage everyone to please come and help us celebrate our trees on Veterans Day.
Steve Langer is the newest member of the Olympia City Council. He can be reached at 360-754-8540.