Oregon City School District officials expressed "much dismay" in announcing this month that one of the two iconic walnut trees in front of the high school will have to be removed.
District officials said that the more than 100-year-old tree has a disease causing decay on the south side of its trunk, requiring it to be chopped down before students return to the campus this fall. Since the "unbalanced crown decline is progressive," according to the announcement, this irreversible disease is causing a safety and health risk to the building, grounds and potential pedestrians.
"It is unfortunate that this tree must come down as it has been a focal point on this campus for nearly 45 years," said Kyle Laier, interim superintendent.
The OCHS campus was created on top of a small grove of Oregon black-walnut trees planted over a century ago, according to school district records. Oregon's special variety of walnut began to spring up throughout the Willamette Valley after the Civil War. This hybrid of eastern black walnut and Claro walnut reportedly was introduced to the Pacific Northwest by settlers from California.
When purchasing the land in 1976, the school district incorporated these trees into original plans of the old Moss campus. As part of the entrance design of the new high school completed in 2003, the design team and the district collaborated to keep these trees as a focal point at the entrance to create an aesthetically pleasing viewpoint.
District officials plan to repurpose a large portion of the downed walnut's trunk to create a 12-foot conference table, to be placed in the main office at OCHS. They say it will be two or three years before anyone will see this table, due to the lengthy process of drying the wood before it becomes furniture.
Oregon City school officials promised that a new oak tree will be planted in its place, with the intention of fitting in with the remaining black walnut and providing adequate shade at the entrance of the school.
"We anticipate the replacement tree will provide an equal amount of beauty and protection for many future generations," Laier said.
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