Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 80° Clear

Home Planet

Growing a Greener City with Forest Spokane

     My neighborhood is just a bit greener than it was.

    Two tall, slender, beautiful, young Ginkgo trees have been planted in my front yard and if cared for properly, they will clean the air, reduce stormwater runoff, and provide shade for many years to come. In the winter snow will fall on the branches and in the spring and summer birds will nest in the green fan-shaped leaves. In the fall the leaves will turn brilliant gold and flare in the autumn sunlight.
    And, thanks to Forest Spokane, this significant investment in my city and my home didn’t cost me a cent.

    My two Ginkgo trees were part of this spring’s tree giveaway sponsored by Forest Spokane’s Residential Tree Program. The goal of Forest Spokane is to plant 10,000 new trees in the city as a way to mitigate stormwater from entering the Spokane River and on this first giveaway there were 1,000 free trees—real trees, not twiggy seedlings—up for grabs by Spokane homeowners. Offered were a variety of trees specifically chosen because they will do well in the unique climate of the Inland Northwest and by the end of the weekend, all 1,000 trees had been claimed.

    My daughter heard about the free tree program and told me about it. We immediately selected the trees we wanted from the list on the Forest Spokane website and contacted our neighborhood council representatives to request our vouchers. On the appointed day we drove to two of the participating nurseries, vouchers in hand, and picked up our trees. Hers were at Home Fires Nursery in Airway Heights. With help we managed to get her 8-foot tall Ash and 5-ft-tall dogwood in my Subaru. After we unloaded them we drove to Blue Moon Nursery and picked up my 6-foot-tall Ginkgos. My daughter and her husband are new homeowners. She wanted trees to shade the backyard where my granddaughter plays. I wanted a pair of trees to add color and shade to my front yard.

    But I had another reason for specifically wanting a Ginkgo. Years ago my grandfather, the man who’d introduced me to the beautiful trees, gave me a small Ginkgo which he planted for me on his property. After my grandparents’ death I moved the tree twice but finally had to leave it behind as I moved across the country. I don’t know if it is still there, anchoring one side of the house where we lived when our children were small, but I hope so. I’d like to think it still stands as a legacy to a man who loved trees and passed along that love to me.

    There will be another tree giveaway in the fall and I suspect the trees will go even faster then. It’s an incredible offer, but  it’s also a way to support small businesses in the area. Don’t just grab your trees and go. Spend a few minutes— and maybe a few dollars—at the participating nurseries who are assisting the program. In addition to our trees, I brought home a new rose bush and a beautiful clematis and I’ve been back to both nurseries for more.

    Trees do so much for our community, from providing shade to cleaning the air and water. But they do as much, if not more, for our spirits. As I tend to the young saplings in my front yard I am putting strong new roots into the soil of the city I call home.        

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on NPR stations across the country. She’s the author of  ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at


Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country.