The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Emma Philbrook
The Times 

Teaching Kids the Value of Trees

Waitsburg's Allison Bond hands out tree seedlings, along with lessons on their importance


Emma Philbrook

Allison Bond, of Waitsburg, hands out trees to Waitsburg Elementary students after her presentation on Friday.

WAITSBURG – It takes a lot to keep a schoolkid's attention on a sunny Friday, but Allison Bond managed that minor miracle last week at Waitsburg Elementary.

In the school cafeteria, 150 five-inch saplings sat in boxes on the tiled floor as Bond showed them off to an awestruck crowd of students. They'd each get to take one home, she explained, and plant it in celebration of Arbor Day. Soon, the tiny trees would grow as tall as the one by the school's front door. They'd clean the air and provide shelter to animals.

"Imagine if you were going to build a force field around your city," Bond explained with a twinkle in her eye. "That's what trees do for you."

The Waitsburg Urban Forestry Project, which Bond heads, has fulfilled a big part of its stated mission with Friday's event. The organization aims to "educate and encourage people in the importance of planting new trees and the preservation of old trees".

And while the distribution of these new trees was by all accounts a success, it was Bond's love of Waitsburg's historic greenery that first got her involved with the UFP.

"I was starting to get alarmed at the rate that the city was removing mature trees," Bond says. "I tried to talk to [the city] about alternatives to clear-cutting our streets, and to remind them that tree lovers, long before me, had already worked out a magnificent plan to deal with trees and green spaces."

After several "very frustrating" attempts to communicate her concerns to the municipal government, she "jumped" at the chance to work on the Urban Forestry Project, a subdivision of local nonprofit Rural Youth Enrichment Services (RYES).

Bond works alongside Vanessa Vails, who was also on hand Friday to pass out tiny blue spruces and ponderosa pines. "She is excellent," Bond gushed, noting that the two "have been hustling to get this Arbor Day project done."

The UFP's plans don't stop at passing out saplings, however. The organization's ambitious list of goals includes creating a map of "heritage trees" in Waitsburg, educating the public about proper pruning practices, helping locals get in touch with certified arborists, and putting together a list of trees that grow well in this climate and can be planted in tricky places – near sidewalks, close to foundations, and under power lines.

The group intends to collaborate further with the Whitman County Historical Society's Lost Apple Project, whose leadership RYES hosted last fall. And of course, Vails and Bond fully intend to return to Waitsburg Elementary next year with more trees in tow.

At this year's event, students filed happily by Bond and her miniature forest, chattering excitedly. "Do you have any blue ones left?" "I'm gonna get the kind with the squishy needles." "Which one did she give you? Cool, we match!"

Some of the older kids took a peek at the growing instructions wrapped around the narrow pots. As the final bell sounded, the little green tufts were carried carefully into the warm spring sunlight.

"I thought it went well," Bond said of the event. "We wanted to 'educate and engage', and we did that. The kids were listening." But, she notes, "there is always room for improvement."

"We are already talking about fun things to add to our Arbor Day program next year," Bond says.


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