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Fourth annual Nature Park event draws dignitaries, including Rep. Mark Meek, to climb Oregon white oak

On April 27, 300 nature enthusiasts gathered to celebrate the fourth annual Arbor Day at the Gladstone Nature Park on Webster Road in Gladstone.

Members of the Gearheads club at Kraxberger Middle School meet Xavier of Thordarson Farms Alpacas in Oregon City.Mayor Tammy Stempel opened the celebration with a ceremonial tree planting, assisted by Ken McCormick, pastor emeritus of Tri-City Baptist Temple. Stempel read a Native American poem, and McCormick described the history of Brian French's various demonstrations at the event included habitat displays and scaling an oak to show how to measure trees and assess their health. Arbor Day, which dates back to 1872 in Nebraska.

In 2015, city officials had considered selling the 11.82-acre Gladstone Nature Park, but after a successful 2016 ballot measure, city parks now are protected through required votes of citizens for land sales or changing park uses. Gladstone City Councilor Tom Mersereau, Clackamas County Commissioner Ken Humberston and state Rep. Mark Meek attended the Arbor Day event.

Meek, who is a tenor and former Portland Opera Chorus member, treated attendees to his rendition of "America the Beautiful." He concluded his visit by scaling the same oak tree as Brian French (a certified arborist who works with the Ascending the Giants program to find and measure the largest trees on the planet) demonstrating that "heights are no obstacle" for this Air Force veteran.

"We had a fantastic day at the Gladstone Nature Park in celebration of Arbor Day," Meek said. "What a thrill it was to climb this amazing tree, thanks to my new friend and arborist Brian."

Other live singers at the event included local barbershop guitarist Jim Grear, singer-songwriter Mary Curtis and the Eichsteadt brothers. The afternoon concluded with acoustic classic rock band Deja Blu, which reunited for the occasion after a hiatus of four years.

Visitors to the park were delighted by a visit from Thordarson Farms Alpacas from Oregon City.

"Xavier, the alpaca, was a perfect gentleman and reminds us that alpacas love trees, too," said Arbor Day event organizer Nancy Eichsteadt, president of Friends of Gladstone Nature Park, which co-sponsored the event with the Sherie Hildreth Ovarian Cancer Foundation.

COURTESY PHOTO - Clackamas County Extension Forester Glenn Ahrens provides information about forest ecology in the Willamette Valley during two forest talks at Arbor Day. Scores of children who attended the event created chalk artwork on the trail that spans the park, spent time in the craft tent fashioning art Kraxberger Gearheads club members, including Kellen Hirte (right) help excavate a large hole for an Oregon white oak, sourced by certified arborist Andrew Craig (left). The club previously helped recycle metal and clear trash in the park.pieces from recycled materials, made bird feeders for their yards and planted seeds to take home. Kids were encouraged to explore the trails in the park on a new scavenger hunt that featured cut-out animals constructed by Bill Preble and painted by local teacher Cary Salisbury.

Clackamas County Extension Forester Glenn Ahrens took tour groups to learn about the park's oak woodland and savannah, a rapidly vanishing habitat in the Willamette Valley, where most trees are less than 200 years old because of the impact of European migration to the area in the 1800s.

This year, 32 vendors gathered to celebrate trees, open spaces, recreation and health at the event.

"These vendors represent all-volunteer organizations who work for and in our communities," Eichsteadt said.

The Gladstone Arbor Day Celebration returns next year on April 25.

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