To mark the 75th anniversary of the close of World War II, Oregon City and Happy Valley will plant special peace trees distributed by the Oregon Department of Forestry in partnership with nonprofit groups.
Both Happy Valley and Oregon City are planting long-lived ginkgo trees, a species that grew in Oregon millions of years ago before becoming extinct everywhere but China. The seedling ginkgo and Asian persimmon trees were grown from seeds collected from trees that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and brought to Oregon by Hideko Tamura-Snider, who survived the bombing on Aug. 6, 1945.
Happy Valley's tree is intended for the grounds of City Hall. The Oregon City tree will be planted at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
Kristin Ramstad, ODF program manager, said between now and next summer, the 36 peace trees — 29 ginkgos and seven Asian persimmons — will be planted across 16 Oregon counties. Most of the seedlings are going to parks, arboretums and schools across the state. The greatest number will be planted in April as part of Arbor Week.
Ramstad said the project is a reminder that in addition to the environmental benefits tree canopy provides in cities, trees also play an important role in bringing a community together to reflect on the more meaningful aspects of life.
"To Hiroshima residents struggling in the aftermath of the atomic bomb, seeing these battered and scorched trees leaf out again gave hope that they, too, might recover," Ramstad said. "They not only represented resilience in the face of unbelievable destruction, they have come to symbolize the desire and need for peace in a nuclear-armed world."
Ramstad said the plantings also are an opportunity for Oregonians to acknowledge the service, sacrifices and suffering of tens of millions of people all over the world who were touched by World War II, both civilians and veterans.
A long journey to new homes in Oregon
Tamura-Snider was 10 years old when she lost her mother in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She went on to establish the One Sunny Day Initiative (OSDI), based in her adopted home of Medford. Tamura-Snider secured from Green Legacy Hiroshima seeds the group had collected from trees that had survived the atom bomb.
In spring 2017, Tamura-Snider gave the seeds to Oregon Community Trees board member Michael Oxendine in Ashland to germinate. Oxendine successfully sprouted the seeds, but with no facilities to care for the seedlings, he appealed to OCT and the ODF to find homes for them.
ODF arranged for the seedling trees to be cared for by Corvallis Parks and Recreation staff under the watchful eye of the department's Jennifer Killian. Ramstad said ODF offered the seedlings at no cost, with priority given to Tree Cities USA and Tree Campuses USA in Oregon.
"Tree City USA and Tree Campus USA communities have proven leadership in caring for their urban forests, so it's fitting that they be looked at first to host these special trees," said Ramstad, adding that recipients are required to plant the trees in public places as part of a public ceremony.
Upon learning how many communities are embracing the Hiroshima seedlings, Tamura-Snider wrote that the anticipated plantings "filled me with joy, remembering the long journey for both the trees and myself. Thank you, people of Oregon, for your enduring faith in the future, in the resilience of life.
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