MONROE — On the far side of the banks of Lake Tye Park, there is a new willow tree.
Specifically, it is a Niobe Golden Weeping Willow. Friday was Arbor Day and in celebration of all things tree-related, a group of fifth graders from Fryelands Elementary School helped plant the tree.
No one could have asked for a more perfect day for it, as it was sunny and the park was busy and full of life.
This was the fifth year that Monroe has been a part of Tree City USA, a program created by the Arbor Day Foundation in 1976. It seeks to help provide cities with a plan to grow its urban tree cover. The program has grown to include 3,600 communities in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.
For community members, the Tree City USA designation is a matter of pride.
“If you meet all the criteria, you receive the Tree City USA award and every year you have to renew that,” said Mike Farrell, director of Parks and Recreation for Monroe. “We’ve been doing this now for five years. I know there’s communities in Washington that have been doing it for 30 years and that’s wonderful. We’re just proud that we can do it now.”
The city also has a program for locals that use living Christmas trees. After the holiday season is over, those trees can be given to the parks department and are then planted.
Farrell also mentioned another program, one that takes submissions for “heritage trees.” They aren’t specifically protected, as landowners need to have the ability to cut them down if they become dangerous, but it is a way of celebrating notable trees.
“It recognizes heritage trees, like there may be some unusual looking species of tree that’s mature and beautiful, like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s an amazing tree,’” Farrell said. “Like there’s this one tree on the heritage list, it’s at the cemetery. It’s just this cherry tree and it’s low and weeps and spreads and when it blooms, it’s just beautiful.”
Lake Tye is a human-made body of water and trees have been put in over the years along the edge of the lake. It serves as both a stormwater system and as a recreational area. It is fed by groundwater and several nearby streams, reaching a depth of about 29 feet.
There is even a drainage cleaning system underneath a nearby artificial turf sports field that filters the water before it gets into the lake.
Farrell said the lake’s water is some of the cleanest in the state. Each year it is stocked with fish for anglers in the area, which is one of the reason a willow was chosen.
“It will provide shade here on the shoreline for the people that fish or if you just want to rest and get out of the sun, like we are today,” said Diane Carlson, who represented the Monroe Gardening Club at the event. “It also protects the fish as it cools the water with shade.”
For the students in attendance, it was also their first field trip since the pandemic, said Darcy Slater, one of the fifth grade teachers. A big part of Monroe’s fifth grade curriculum deals with ecosystems, including how trees along shorelines are an important part of microclimates and mitigating erosion.
The kids seemed genuinely thrilled to help with the planting. Each student was able to throw a shovel full of dirt onto the tree under the watchful eyes of Monroe Parks Department staff.
“You know, with 10- or 11-year-olds their biggest excitement is getting to leave school with their buddies and go somewhere else. But I think once we went on the Monroe city website this week and looked at the City Council and understand some important humans might be here today, which I think made them feel special,” Slater said. “It’s just so wonderful to have the community gathered here like this.”
Jordan Hansen: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @jordyhansen.