First order of business for the local heritage group? Recognizing some local giants in the community

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The Three Sisters Oaks on Kinsman Road are Wilsonvilles newest Heritage Trees, with the help of the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society. After years of lying dormant due to dwindling interest and volunteer availability, the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society is back in business.

Newly-elected President Steve VanWechel, said that he's been interested in getting involved with the historical society for a number of years, but he could never swing the time commitment.

"I've been here in Wilsonville for about 30 years now and the population was 4,700 when we got here," VanWechel said. "And I've seen the group listed a number of times, but the meetings were always 1 o'clock in the afternoon, and hey, I was working!"

Since VanWechel is transitioning to retirement now and the group has discussed the possibility of some evening meetings, he accepted the nomination to become president.

"Our progress to date is, 'Yes, we want to keep going,'" he said.

If you go

Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society meeting

July 5, 1 p.m.

Wilsonville Library, 8200 S.W. Wilsonville Road

Public encouraged to attend

VanWechel said that the Society is working through reorganizing the group and figuring out how to move forward." We will look at the whole program this summer and give it a bit more structure," he said.

One of the first things that the new Society board is tackling is revitalizing the longstanding Wilsonville Heritage Tree Program. Recently fourth-grade students from Mrs. Hanlon's Boones Ferry Primary class, led by CREST Director Bob Carlson, nominated the Three Sisters Oak trees on Kinsman Road near Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Station 52, as to be named new Heritage Trees. But, it soon became apparent that the board that previously reviewed tree nominations was defunct.

"We used to have a Heritage Tree Program and it kind of fell by the wayside," Councilor Charlotte Lehan said at the June 19 Wilsonville City Council meeting.

Needing a new reviewing body to check the historical merit of the trees, Lehan contacted VanWechel to ask the historical society to step up to the plate.

The approximately 200-year-old oak trees were approved at the June 19 City Council meeting and officially added to the Heritage Tree program. But VanWechel said that the Society isn't done with the program quite yet.

Currently, a tree with a Heritage designation isn't noted by signage, protected from being cut down or marked to receive any special benefit and VanWechel hopes to change this by revamping the program over the course of the summer.

"I think that it's important that we do define what it means to be a 'Heritage Tree,'" Mayor Tim Knapp said at the June 19 meeting.

But the Society hopes to go a step further by seeking  out the nominations of other historically relevant trees as well.

"We think that it would be fabulous if we could get some nominations for trees along the river with chain and rope marks that came about from chaining up the log rafts that used to be floated down the river," VanWechel said. "We used the river a lot to float the logs down to the mills."

But at the end of the day, getting these history projects off the ground will take more than a handful of people and he encourages everyone to get involved.

"We would like some people who are interested in history to come out and show their interest and maybe suggest projects that we, as the society, can go out to do to promote the history of our community," VanWechel said.

Contact Wilsonville Spokesman reporter Claire Green at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or [email protected]

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