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A hands-on experience for the area's youngsters not only provided education on planting trees, but served as an example of the Philomath community's historic relationship with the land and its resources.

It was all part of Saturday's 24th annual Starker Forests Tree Planting Day, an event that has become an educational tradition for nearly a quarter century now.

"This site was logged in the 1930s and 1940s and we've gotten to see remnants of that operation and how it's regenerated and reforested," PHS forestry and natural resources teacher Simon Babcock said about the area where the tree planting took place this year. "The historical part of this has been great for this particular unit."

Located in Starker Forests near Decker Road about six miles off Highway 34, roughly 85 elementary children, many from Boy Scout and Girl Scout organizations, braved wet conditions to take part in the activity. With all of the volunteers, including local high school students, about 170 overall were on site.

The Philomath High School forestry management class along with other students with an interest in natural resources have spent the past few weeks setting up plots to get it ready for Saturday's event. Babcock said about 35 PHS students participated.

"One of the biggest things for the high-schoolers is learning the responsibility of working with people and educating others about the importance of restoration," Babcock said. "It gets them outside and gives them exposure beyond their backyard. ... Part of the experience is getting out to the site and seeing all the interest.

"They are the next generation. What they get out of it is really important."

Among those taking part were alumni from past PHS forestry programs, so the event also served as a sort of reunion. Some today work as foresters.

"Each child plants 10 trees and each group of 10 would plant 100 trees," Starker Forests engineer Jennifer Beathe said about the event. "We're really providing an opportunity for kids to get outside, visit the forest and learn a little about planting trees."

Based on the math, that means between 800 and 900 trees were planted on Saturday.

"We plant about 400 to 420 trees per acre and that's about two acres," Beathe said about the activity site. "The harvest area, the clear-cut where we'll be planting is about 40 acres. Part of it has already been planted by our tree-planting crew."

And just to make the sure the younger planters got everything right, the pros will come out later to check things out.

"They'll come back and have an inspection of all the trees the kids planted," Beathe said. "It's worth the investment to make sure they live and have a chance."

Beathe believed all of the trees that were to be planted were Douglas fir, the popular evergreens in the pine family that are often valued for their wood and used as Christmas trees. Douglas fir trees account for most of those planted in Starker Forests, although western red cedar and western hemlock are also seen.

The high school students were in charge of getting their younger counterparts to plant the trees. After finishing up, they headed to the "kitchen" for hot dogs and hot chocolate. They also got a free T-shirt.

"That is a tarp-covered shelter built last weekend," Beathe said. "They used small-diameter logs that they've reused over the years and PVC pipe for the roof."

In all, the range of those taking part proved to be extraordinary from grade-school students to middle-schoolers and high-schoolers, to college students to professionals in the field.

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