The blackened south end of Dishman Hills was given a bit of new life Sunday.
Cub and Boy Scouts took to an area burned last July during the Valley View fire armed with shovels and plastic grocery sacks filled with ponderosa pine seedlings.
Scouts from Cub Scout Pack 497 and Boy Scout Troop 494 – along with friends and family – planted 600 young trees donated by the Spokane County Conservation District, hoping to revitalize the area.
“As a mom, it’s good to have kids think beyond themselves,” said Kathy Duncan, mother of two Scouts. “Helping others is important; that is why Scouts is so great because they do a lot of these events.”
Cub master Guy Gifford, a prevention forester for the Department of Natural Resources, led the group into the charred hillside and demonstrated how to plant the seedlings.
“One good place to plant is next to a dead tree,” Gifford explained while digging a hole. “Also, if you can plant on the north side, it will have shade to survive.”
After Gifford’s demonstration, groups of two or more dispersed to plant their sacks of trees. Each sack contained 25 seedlings.
Cub Scouts Lance Gifford, 9, and Scott Stark, 11, planted 50 trees.
“It will give the wildlife a better place to live,” Lance Gifford said.
Honeysuckles growing on the blackened hillside surprised the group.
“It’s interesting that even in the middle of this, flowers are coming back,” said Angela Priest, mother of two Scouts, pointing to the burnt surroundings.
The biggest challenge of the day was the rocky soil.
“Welcome to the Spokane Valley,” Dora Glidden said while trying to locate a place for a seedling on a rocky hillside. Glidden, her two sons, Zach, 10, and Parker, 13, and friend Aaron Hilfiker, 12, planted 50 trees.
“It’s a beautiful day to plant trees,” Glidden said. “I’m hoping and praying these trees grow and get this area green again.”
Den leader Joe Wiedmer and his wife, Melissa, were there with their six children, two of whom, Wyatt and Andrew, have been Scouting for about a year. Prepared for just about anything, the Wiedmers brought two rakes, three shovels, a hoe and a pick. It turned out to their benefit, as they took 250 trees to plant. While digging the hole for their last seedling, Joe’s shovel broke. “He jumped on it and it just snapped,’ Melissa Wiedmer said.
Approximately 50 volunteers planted 600 year-old seedlings throughout four acres of the Dishman Hills Natural Resource Conservation Area in just under one hour.
Guy Gifford said the group picked the area for planting because the fire’s intensity gives it a low chance of natural regeneration. The seedlings will take 60 to 80 years to reach maturity.
Along with reforestation, Gifford’s main objectives for the outing were to build confidence in the boys and equip them with knowledge about conservation and fire safety.
“We talked about the cause of the fire and how it could be prevented,” Gifford said.
After all the seedlings were in the ground, the group worked to rehabilitate a fire break Gifford helped build when fighting the fire last year.
“People start walking on it thinking it’s a real trail,” Gifford said. “We’re just going to fill it in.”
Angela Priest said she was glad for the opportunity to participate. “It gives you a really good feeling to know you are giving back to the community.”