Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Thanks for the memories! May 2010-March 2020

Get the local dirt in our northwest corner • Regrowing in 2023!

Project to restore elm trees in honor of WWI vets

Apr 30th, 2015 | Category: Community

by Cathy Mackenzie

A living tribute to Skagit County citizens who gave their lives in World War I may soon be visible again, thanks to WSU Skagit County master gardeners and other community volunteers leading the effort to replace a total of 84 elm trees – each representing a fallen local U.S. service member – which once lined Memorial Highway (State Route 536).

WSU Skagit County Master Gardeners (pictured left to right) Bob O’Brien, Bill Prichard, Al Call and Janine Prichard plant one of five elm trees donated by the WSU Mount Vernon Research Center in the first phase of a community effort to restore the veterans memorial along State Route 536. Photo by  Kim Binczewski

WSU Skagit County Master Gardeners (pictured left to right) Bob O’Brien, Bill Prichard, Al Call and Janine Prichard plant one of five elm trees donated by the WSU Mount Vernon Research Center in the first phase of a community effort to restore the veterans memorial along State Route 536. Photo by
Kim Binczewski

In conjunction with the preceding Memorial Day holiday, a free public ceremony marking the first phase of a series of elm-tree plantings is scheduled for 11 a.m. May 26. The ceremony will be held at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Research Center, 16650 State Route 536. Al Call, president of the WSU Skagit County Master Gardener Foundation and a 22-year Army veteran, will serve as the event’s Master of Ceremonies.

The ceremony will be held at the site of the World War I Veterans Memorial, just west of the Research Center, in the public display garden maintained by WSU Skagit County Extension Master Gardener Program volunteers. In tribute to the veterans, the ceremony will include a bugle rendition of “Taps” accompanying a reading of the names of the deceased Skagit County WWI veterans. A flyover of vintage aircraft will follow.

Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau and WSU Mount Vernon Director Steve Jones are among the scheduled speakers.

When Memorial Highway (State Route 536) was first dedicated in 1931, both sides of the roadway were adorned with elm trees memorializing the local WWI veterans. Today, only a few of the original trees remain.

“We’re so thrilled to be involved with the community on a project that will restore such a visible tribute to our veterans,” Jones said.

Two of the original elm trees can still be seen towering above the eastern portion of Memorial Highway in front of the Net Drive-In, at 18037 State Route 536, according to Call.

“Many people think the elm trees planted here were victims of Dutch Elm Disease, but that’s not the case,” he said. “The disease didn’t spread to Skagit County until the 1990s. It was actually during the 1950s that most of the original elm trees along Memorial Highway were removed by the state highway department when the road was widened and utilities were put in.”

It has long been Call’s vision as a master gardener volunteer — and as a veteran — to help restore the original elm-tree memorial. “I love these trees and what they signify for this community,” he said.

After two years of planning, the project began in earnest last month when five new “Princeton” elm trees (Ulmus americana ‘Princeton’) were purchased by the research center and planted on WSU property on the south side of Memorial Highway.

Two of the original elms planted as part of the 1931 Memorial Highway dedication can still be seen along the roadway next to the Net Drive-In in Mount Vernon. Photo by Kim Binczewski

Two of the original elms planted as part of the 1931 Memorial Highway dedication can still be seen along the roadway next to the Net Drive-In in Mount Vernon. Photo by Kim Binczewski

This variety of elm, known for its disease resistance, was obtained locally from Urban Forest Nursery, Inc., a Mount Vernon company owned by Jim and Annie Barborinas. At maturity, each tree will stand between 80 and 85 feet tall with a canopy up to 50 feet wide.

“The Princeton elm got its name because it was planted along the main entrance to Princeton University in New Jersey,” Call said. “Back in the 1930s, when Dutch Elm Disease hit the East Coast, almost all elm trees died. This variety was a survivor of that initial attack because of its resistance to the disease.”

Call said he hopes this planting dedication ceremony will inspire other community members and property owners along Memorial Highway to get involved and help complete the project, on behalf of the local WWI veterans.

The first phase is aimed at planting trees along the less-densely developed western portion of Memorial Highway, between Avon-Allen Road and the intersection of State Route 536 and Highway 20.

“Volunteers with the WSU Skagit County Master Gardener Program will work with Urban Forestry to develop a fact sheet for community members and landowners interested in purchasing trees and/or participating in the project,” Call said. “As additional trees are planted, master gardener volunteers will be available for consultation; but the property owners will be responsible for ongoing maintenance.

“We started with the WSU Mount Vernon Research Center as a launch pad for this restorative, elm-tree-planting project,” he added. “Perhaps once people see these trees in the ground, we’ll get some momentum going.”

How to volunteer or purchase tree

Donations to the non-profit Skagit County Master Gardener Foundation may be made by mail to the Foundation, PO Box 2801,
Mount Vernon, WA 98273.

Information about purchasing the “Princeton” variety elm tree can be obtained from Urban Forest Nursery, Inc.,15119 McLean Road in Mount Vernon or by calling (360) 428-5810. See their website at www.urbanforestnursery.com/index.html. More information about the WSU Skagit County Master Gardener Program is available at http://ext100.wsu.edu/skagit/mg/.

 Published in the May 2015 issue of Grow Northwest

Leave a Comment