The Seattle and southern Washington Tzu Chi tree-planting team, a model of efficiency!

Tzu Chi's Green Gifts

Boistfort Valley in southern Washington is vulnerable to flood damage due to a combination of natural phenomena and careless logging practices. In December 2007, one of the key structures damaged by surging flood waters was Boistfort Public School which lies just 100 yards from the south fork of the Chehalis River. Tzu Chi volunteers noticed how close Boistfort School was to the over-flowed river bank and the submerged traffic arterial, Boistfort Road, which passes between the river on the west side and the school on the east side. Thus a follow-up project came to mind - a shield of trees. A chain of cedars strung near the river would help ensure that Boistfort Road would stay open to traffic, protect Boistfort School from flooding and wind damage and decrease future erosion along a more stable river bank.

Following two months of preparation, on April 12 nearly two dozen Tzu Chi volunteers met in Kirkland, 10 miles east of Seattle, at 7:30am and set out on the 130 mile journey south. At a highway rest station along Interstate 5 they were joined by 20 more Tzu Chi volunteers from southern Washington. The volunteers made their next to last stop at Dirty Thumb Nursery in Chehalis to load 86 trees and shrubs. The Taiwan Buddhist group and a Dirty Thumb truck filled with the biggest trees arrived at the school and river bank site at 10:15. The fantastically clear blue skies and a sunny 73 degrees Fahrenheit were an April rarity in western Washington. The moist earth and balmy temperature were ideal for digging 86 two feet by two feet holes.

Tzu Chi

Along the banks of the Chehalis River in Boistfort, Washington, Seattle Tzu Chi volunteers dig planting holes for a total of 86 new trees and shrubs.

Within 20 minutes the plants and shovels were unloaded, a tent had been erected and a 100 yard long yellow safety/boundary tape had been strung along the perimeter of the river bank. With near machine-like efficiency the volunteers had 50 trees and shrubs planted just before noon. The three children had also carved away invasive and deadly vines from the base of two stately 40 year old native cedars that were growing near the planting area.

Following some friendly conversation and rest, at 12:45 all returned energetically to the work for which they had come. The variety of trees and shrubs was both utilitarian and visually pleasing. The tallest cedars, Thuja, were planted six to eight feet from the river bank’s edge. Another twenty feet back a powerline is suspended overhead between telephone poles so shrubs that will grow about 10 feet tall and have a nice width, such as Burning Bush and Hakuro Nishiki, were planted beneath. Finishing off the project were three Tai Haku (Great White) Cherry trees in a clearing area for future picnic goers.

Richard Apperson, Superintendent of rural Boistfort School, stopped by after lunch and expressed gratitude for the help Tzu Chi volunteers had given the community over the past few months. And across the street at the Grange (farmers’) Meeting Hall, came more thanks from Andrea Pinkerton, the Grange Association’s coordinator for disaster relief. Back in January, with the local paved road under water and mud, she was glad she had a horse to ride!

Meanwhile the shovels kept digging and the dirt kept flying. Shortly before 1:00 the remaining 36 green gifts were in the ground beginning their journey of growth to becoming a living arboreal wall of protection and beauty. The Buddhist group kept close to the punctuality of a Japanese train schedule and at 1:30 the Tzu Chi caravan departed Boistfort School’s property for the two hour return drive to Seattle. Glancing back at the park-like appearance of the newly tree-dotted corridor, the volunteers felt the satisfaction of having planted green seeds of compassion. ⊕

Contributor: Thomas A. O'Kelly

Photos: Courtesy of Seattle Tzu Chi Foundation