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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Volunteers plant 3,000 plants in downtown Spokane, 250 pines along Centennial Trail

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 12, 2019

Steven Hipp adds a splash of water to plants on a hillside at Washington Street and First Avenue as part of the Lands Council and Avista Reforest Spokane Day, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Spokane, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Steven Hipp adds a splash of water to plants on a hillside at Washington Street and First Avenue as part of the Lands Council and Avista Reforest Spokane Day, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Spokane, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Organizers for the Lands Council and Avista’s eighth annual Reforest Spokane Day set a lofty goal Saturday: plant about 3,000 small plants and 250 trees at two sites in three hours.

But that didn’t appear unrealistic once around 400 volunteers turned out to help.

“It’s a great thing to do,” said volunteer Cathy Walter, 52, who volunteers outside with her husband, Jeff, each month. “Last month we cleaned the river. This month we’re planting trees.”

The first planting site was on a slope at the southeast corner of First Avenue and Washington Street. Avista crews removed juniper bushes and installed a rock retaining wall. The slope is adjacent to where professional landscapers are installing two new street trees in sidewalk grates.

Once landscapers plotted spots for each plant, the volunteers dug holes and placed five ponderosa pines, several serviceberry trees and 3,000 mostly native small plants and grasses. Then they mulched and watered the new ground cover.

Lewis and Clark High School juniors Lauren Stone and Addy Somes volunteered to help plant through their environmental science course. They had to take pictures of the work they did and explain how it helped the environment.

The community engagement aspect of the course was a big incentive to take it, they said.

“A lot of other classes didn’t have that,” Somes said.

Across town, the other half of the volunteers planted about 250 ponderosa pines along the Centennial Trail near the pedestrian Iron Bridge, just east of Gonzaga University.

Brenna Huang, 17, an LC student, said she’s been volunteering with the Lands Council for about four years and Reforest Spokane is one of her favorite events.

“Climate is really important,” she said. “I just want to do what I can to help, and I really enjoy working outdoors.”

In the past, the Lands Council has planted in areas on the outskirts of Spokane near rivers and streams, but the focus has turned toward the heart of the city this year as a part of a new urban forestry initiative.

City Council passed an ordinance in the spring to cover 30% of Spokane in tree canopy by 2030. With more than 89,000 trees within city limits, the current canopy estimate is 23%.

City Council member Lori Kinnear said the council could vote as soon as December to set up requirements for street trees during construction and incentives for planting them, like lower stormwater fees on water bills.

Studies have shown that planting trees can mitigate polluted stormwater reaching the river, make shade to reduce temperatures in the urban core and create animal habitat, said Chelsea Updegrove, Lands Council development director and urban canopy coordinator. Plus, trees can “change our landscape so we have a more beautiful downtown,” she said.

The idea started when Avista began tearing up sidewalks for routine maintenance and went to the city with a proposition to plant more street trees. Then the city approached the Lands Council about making it a community effort, Updegrove said.

Avista funded the event and, along with the city and Selkirk Developers, donated plant materials. Theongoing maintenance of the plants at Washington Street and First Avenue will be a volunteer effort.

“We’re here to celebrate our shared values,” Updegrove said.

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