Native tree program has Silverdale roots

Freeway drivers may not have noticed, but their passage through Kitsap County has been enhanced by the planting of 140 saplings.

“Treeways,” a long-range state project to reforest denuded areas around state highways, had its kick-off in Silverdale recently.

The program is under the aegis of the state Department of Transportation (DOT) in cooperation with regional groups and volunteers.

Back when state routes were upgraded to freeways and major highways, many trees were lost during clearing and construction. A recent re-evaluation by forestry experts indicates trees can be re-planted — and re-planted safely, said Bob Barnes, DOT landscaping architect for the Olympic Peninsula.

“We found trees could be re-planted and not pose a threat to cars (careening) off the road; and not pose the threat in creating shade in the winter, which causes black ice on the road,” he said.

Saplings have been planted from Bremerton’s Loxie Eagans Boulevard to Kitsap Mall Boulevard.

Following a little prep work, “We planted them all Jan. 10,” said Barnes, “and we’re thinking long-term about the eventual size and shade characteristics, and the possibility that someday freeways may be widened. We used garry oaks, also known as Oregon White Oaks, because they’re relatively slow growing and shed their leaves in the fall.”

Local organizer and Puget Sound Energy forester, Jim Trainer, listed local volunteers from West Park’s Kitsap Youth in Action, Kitsap County Alternatives to (Juvenile) Detention, Bremerton City Council, Kitsap Trees, the Washington State Scuba Alliance, Kitsap Diving Association, Kitsap Conservation District, Kitsap County Health Department, and the USS Abraham Lincoln.

“It was a historical day,” said Trainer. “What with Kitsap picked to be the first area in what will be a three-year, 3,000-tree project” throughout the state.

The saplings are staked and red flagged so that maintenance crews can spot them and avoid mowing them, said officials. Trainer said eventually the state hopes to erect interpretive signs for the trees, which will vary in species from region to region. The next stretch of SR 3 to be planted will be from the overpass at Kitsap Mall Boulevard to Trigger Avenue. Hemlock will be planted.

Most of the trees planted Jan. 10 were in barren areas around on- and off-ramps, both sides of SR 3: 20 trees at Loxie Eagans, another 20 at Kitsap Way, a dozen just north of Kitsap Way, eight at Austin Drive, 17 at Chico, and nearly 30 at Newberry Hill Road.

The first leg of the project will plant trees to Hood Canal Bridge, said DOT officials.

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