City Arborist Lige Weedman and Rotary's Sam Niesslein Jr. pour soil around a planted tree on Friday at Skirvin Park. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Picking up shovels and packing soil in the ground around a couple of Red Rage tupelo trees, Philomath Rotary Club members got their hands dirty to contribute to the community on Arbor Day.

It was the featured activity following a 20-minute ceremony that included comments from the mayor, public works operations supervisor, a state senator and others along with recognition of the city’s first five heritage trees.

“We are happy to provide these two trees to beautify Skirvin Park here,” Rotary Club President Dan Dusek said. “To borrow a line from one of my college professors in the forestry department over at Oregon State, Paul Ries, he said, ‘the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is today.’ And that’s why we’re here today.”

Several Rotarians were in attendance for the ceremony and participated in the plantings.

“Here in about five, 10, 15 years, these trees will be beautifully blooming in red and it’ll be a really nice addition to the park here,” Dusek said.

Beyond Friday’s event, Rotary also donated eight Sycamore Exclamation trees that were planted in an area behind the rodeo grandstands.

Public Works Operations Supervisor Garry Black speaks about Philomath’s Tree City USA designation. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Public Works Operations Supervisor Garry Black, who organizes Arbor Day-related activities each year, said Philomath is in its 29th consecutive year as the Tree City USA honoree.

“There’s currently 69 cities in Oregon that are recognized as Tree City USA and we’re in the top 20, so that’s a pretty good deal for us,” Black said. “I appreciate all of the hard work and support from the community.”

The Arbor Day Foundation has four requirements that Tree City USA communities must meet — maintain a tree board, have a tree ordinance, spend at least $2 per capita to meet the requirements and celebrate Arbor Day.

“In Oregon, 57% of us live in a tree community,” Black said. “The average capita we’re spending is $10 per person, which is a pretty big number. We’re at that number here in Philomath as well.”

Sen. Dick Anderson, left, greets Philomath Mayor Chas Jones during Friday’s Arbor Day celebration. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Sen. Dick Anderson, who now represents Philomath as part of District 5 following the recent redistricting, had a few comments.

“Educating the public on the value — not just economic value, but the social value of trees and the beauty of trees (is important),” Anderson said. “I can see what you’re doing here and I do appreciate it.”

Brian Bailey, vice president of the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo’s board of directors, provided a short history of Skirvin Park and the horse sculpture plaza. Paul and Lola Skirvin donated 19.84 acres of land to the city to provide “a “long-term future home for the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo and to encourage citizens to have ownership in the new city park.” In addition, the Friends of Skirvin Park group donated the horse sculpture, which was created by local artist Bud Thomas.

Philomath Rotary Club President Dan Dusek speaks during Friday’s Arbor Day celebration at Skirvin Park. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Pacific Power representatives spoke as well at the event. PacifiCorp has received the Tree Line USA Utility designation through the Arbor Day Foundation for around two decades.

Mayor Chas Jones read the city’s Arbor Day proclamation and also recognized several people who were on hand for the ceremony for their contributions.

Jones handed out Heritage Tree program certificates to those that were recently inducted into the new program. Among those was Carolyn Choquette, who lives on Grange Hall Road, and she provided a quick history of the Oregon white oak that’s been standing for approximately five centuries.

“Trees really formed the foundation of our community — they’re the roots that really hold us in place and bring us all together,” Jones said.

Brad Fuqua

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.