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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eastern Washington could get its own landscape feature on Capitol Campus

An apple tree in front of the state Legislative Building – fenced in to avoid deer eating it – is one of the few trees on the Capitol campus that represent Eastern Washington. Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill last week that will create a larger area with multiple trees to represent Eastern Washington.  (Laurel Demkovich/The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Eastern Washington may soon be commemorated on the state Capitol campus.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, would create a space on the grounds around the Capitol to recognize the oft-forgotten part of the Washington. Specifically its trees.

The original bill called the proposed space an Eastern Washington Memorial, but an amended bill that unanimously passed a House panel on Wednesday called the space a cultural landscape feature.

“As you walk around, you see a lot of beautiful trees from western Washington,” Kretz said, “but there’s a remarkable absence of anything I can find from Eastern Washington.”

The Department of Enterprise Services, which manages the Capitol grounds, lists 36 different types of trees on campus, but horticulturist Brent Chapman told a House committee there were only two types of trees from Eastern Washington on state property.

There are two upright apple trees from Eastern Washington near the Legislative Building and a small Aspen grove near the Natural Resources Building.

The bill would require a cultural landscape feature to recognize “the flora and fauna, rich agriculture and forestry and history of eastern Washington,” according to the bill.

It requires the feature to include ponderosa pine, quaking aspen and western larch, unless the Department of Enterprise Services finds the trees cannot survive in Western Washington conditions. Chapman asked that the department be involved in the planning to ensure they pick the appropriate trees that could thrive in Western Washington.

Kretz said the named species in the bill are his favorite, but was open to allowing those who maintain the grounds to come up with ideas.

“There’s nothing like the ponderosa pine,” he said.

The bill also sets up a Washington State Eastern Washington Cultural Landscape Feature Account, which could be funded with gifts, grants and endowments, to create and maintain the area.

Kretz said he spent a lot of time traveling across the state and has grown to appreciate the variation of trees in both Western and Eastern Washington.

“This is an attempt to maybe add a little bit to the campus,” Kretz said.

Chapman was the lone testifier on the bill in a House State Government and Tribal Relations committee hearing on Tuesday. He offered the amendment to rename the memorial to a “cultural landscape feature” because he said memorials are often only used to commemorate someone who has died or historic events.

The added trees would honor a geographic region and the people who use the “very unique and enjoyable and very dynamic landscape.”

House State Government and Tribal Relations chair Rep. Bill Ramos, D-Issaquah, said he was surprised the idea to include more trees representative of all parts of the state didn’t come up earlier.

Ramos spoke in support of the bill before its vote out of committee on Wednesday.

“I think this campus should be representative of the state as a whole,” Ramos said.

The top Republican on the committee Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, agreed.

“Anytime we can highlight the diversity within our state … I think is a good thing,” Abbarno said. “I think this would be a great addition to our campus.”

Representatives from Greater Spokane Inc., the SMART Transportation Division union, the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, and the Washington Potato and Onion Association all signed in favor of the bill but did not testify.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.