Turn Ballard Green; Plant A Tree -- City Grant Will Provide Saplings For $10 Apiece

The Scandinavians who settled Ballard brought with them a love of trees. They did not bring the trees. In fact, they cut down most of those that were there when they arrived.

That void of vegetation is about to be filled - largely through the efforts of a Ballard woman who believes streets need trees for a variety of reasons.

Dervilla Gowan began a "Re-Tree Ballard" program last January and has set a deadline of April 25th to involve as many Ballard residents as possible in the planting effort.

All it takes to participate is a planting strip in front of your house, six hours and $10 for the tree. It takes about two hours to plant the tree and four hours in a period of one year to maintain it, said city arborist Jerry Clark, who will be helping with the tree selection.

Clark said each tree would cost at least $100 retail, but because Gowan plans to apply for a Small and Simple Grant from the Ballard Neighborhood Matching Fund, the city will pay the difference if residents commit to six hours of labor on the tree planting.

"By the year 2001, we're targeting 500,000 trees to be planted in all of Seattle and half of those are targeted specifically as street trees," Clark said. "That equals about one tree per person."

According to a recent 20-city survey by the American Forestry Association, Seattle, ranked 19th in percentage of streets with trees. Ballard's dearth of trees doesn't help those statistics.

"It's the same reason Seattle has no trees," Clark said. "Seattle was actively and very aggressively logged off for timber. And Ballard, because it was relatively flat, would've been easier to log off."

So far, 150 households have committed to the program, averaging about two trees per house. But that is not enough, Gowan said.

"Seattle is just starving for vegetation," she said. Although the original trees in Ballard were coniferous trees - evergreens such as Douglas fir, hemlock and cedar - Gowan is proposing deciduous trees. Those trees provide shade and the leaves fall off in the autumn.

She suggests people who already have trees in front of their yards can adopt a traffic circle in need of trees, or adopt trees for elderly people who are not able to plant them on their own. Most of the people who signed up so far are younger Ballard residents, she said.

The tree planting will take place this fall.

The concept of Re-Tree Ballard is not new for Gowan, a landscape architect who has a horticulture background from her native Ireland. She has worked on projects while studying in England. One project involved planting 3,000 plants for an elementary school so teachers could teach students right in the schoolyard.

"I want to see teachers teaching about the environment on school grounds," Gowan said. Gowan would like to become more active in educating children about the environment in their own neighborhoods.

"They're the ones who are going to save the Earth," Gowan said. "It's education that'll save the Earth. If we have a new generation that is aware, then hopefully, there will no longer be any need for environmental groups to save the Earth."

To register for a tree or to volunteer in Re-Tree Ballard, call 782-2494 before April 25th.