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Miraculous tree serves as centerpiece to Main City Park 'Peace Plaza' near Japanese Garden.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham planted a sapling grown from a tree that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.  In 1945 a 10-year-old Japanese girl was sitting out in her grandmother's garden reading a book when the whole world went white from a blinding light.

Hideko Tamura-Snider was buried under feet of rubble left in the wake of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. Dazed and bloodied, she was able to crawl out from the destruction and flee the oncoming firestorm. She survived, but many others did not.

In the wake of the bombing, many didn't know what the future held. There was fear and uncertainty as to what the radiation poisoning would do to the survivors, and there was talk that nothing would grow for at least 75 years.

But the spring following the atomic bomb, the blackened, scorched Hiroshima ginkgo trees pushed out brilliant, green leaves.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The new ginkgo sapling in Gresham is the centerpiece of a Peace Plaza in Main City Park.  "By some miracle Hideko and those trees were able to survive," Jim Gersbach of the Oregon Department of Forestry said.

More than 75 years later, after a slight delay from the milestone anniversary due to the pandemic, a sapling from one of those resilient Hiroshima ginkgo trees was planted in Gresham as part of a global effort.

Monday morning, Sept. 19, community members gathered for a Hiroshima Peace Tree Dedication in Main City Park, 219 S. Main Ave. The newly completed "Peace Plaza," a stone's throw from the Tsuru Island Japanese Garden, now has the miraculous tree as a centerpiece.

"I have been caring for this seedling the last 11 months in my back yard," Buck said. "It was ready to get out of this pot and be at home in our earth."

The Hiroshima ginkgo tree will eventually grow to be about 30 feet tall and nearly 45 feet wide. It is unknown whether the local tree is male or female, a distinction that won't be determined for another 15 years.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Traditional music was played during a dedication of the new plaza and tree.  The seeds have been sent out by a coalition in Japan as part of efforts to promote peace across the globe. And Tamura-Snider, now in her 80s and a resident of Medford, helped bring many of those seeds to her new home in Oregon.

"This is a statewide and worldwide endeavor to create a community of peace," Gersbach said.

Gresham was the final city in Oregon to receive a Hiroshima tree. There have been 51 trees planted in 45 locations in 35 cities across the state. There are three in Portland, one in Happy Valley and a pair in Hood River.

The project began three years ago as the Gresham Butte Neighborhood Association applied for a series of city matching grants to complete the Ebetsu Plaza.

"This used to be swampy land that was an eyesore," Buck said.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Many volunteers spent hours getting the plaza ready for the Hiroshima ginkgo tree.  The plaza and planting was made possible thanks to a bevy of organizations and volunteers, who dedicated about 120 hours to getting everything ready the past four months. The Gresham Parks Department, Friends of the Gresham Japanese Garden, City Urban Forestry Subcommittee, and Oregon Department of Forestry all played a role.

Learn more about the trees at bit.ly/3eV6ZKF.


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