Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Au Revoir, Klootchy

Along with many other tourists and Oregonians trekking to Seaside and Cannon Beach, I've stopped along the way to pay homage to our beautiful Klootchy Creek Park Sitka Spruce, often touted as the largest of its kind in the US.

This 750 year old giant is near death having been damaged four decades ago by lightning. Last year's wind storm blew off a large chunk of the tree, revealing a rotting interior.

Locals around the area are brainstorming ways to save the tree but their efforts will likely be in vain. The tree's age and state of decay will make most attempts to patch it up exacerbate the situation, according to foresters.

Commenting for OPB, Bob Balmer suggests erecting a monument to the beloved tree:

But what's to showcase when the spruce is dies? A six-foot stump for children playing parachute to jump off? Would it be like visiting Little Bighorn, an eerie monument where the imagination plays with the realization that something spooky happened on this ground that my shoes now touch? Sorry, but a place where a giant spruce stood won't conjure up the ghostly vibrations of Little Big Horn.

An appropriate monument, however, it could inspire a child to be a forester or an adult to scratch his head and marvel at the creative possibilities of Nature gone wild.

Almost 200 miles southeast of the Klootchy Spruce is the Mt Pisgah Arboretum outside of Springfield. Now there's an an idea worth emulating. Sheltered by a roof, a five-foot-wide, one-foot thick cross-section of an approximately 500-year-old fir hangs from two posts. On the tree's rings significant dates are indicated: 1534 -- life begins for the Pisgah fir; 1776 -- US declares Independence; 1805 - Lewis and Clark arrive in the Northwest. The folks that run Mt Pisgah say visitors love to study the tree's life.

So why not cut a cross-section from the Klootchy Spruce and ask historians of all races to mark the spruce's rings with 10 noteworthy dates -- say, "Native Americans greet Lewis and Clark Expedition." Or, "Oregon admitted to the union." Or dates important to indigenous tribes not noted on a typical Caucasian timeline. Then showcase 1920s photos of trees so big that only one could fit on the bed of a truck, and photos of trees today, where a dozen spindly logs comprise a load. Finally, take a seed from the spruce and plant it where it once entertained the curious traveler.

I think this is a splendid notion. Although I'm not sure locating the memorial at the park is the best solution. In order to make an appropriate monument the state will have to fund a new structure to guard the tree round/cross section from the elements as well as create a space for the suggested photos.

I would recommend putting this together over at the spanky new Tillamook Forest Center. This beautiful facility has the potential to reach many more visitors, especially children. Its a great place to nurture a love and respect for this gorgeous old tree.

And its still on the way to the beach.