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Birthday girl celebrates Earth Day with a tree planting party

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By Judy Halone-The Courier-Herald

Katie Leader had an Earth Day birthday Tuesday.

To celebrate, the 9-year-old Victor Falls third-grader invited a group of 15 friends and family members to a tree-planting party.

The event took place behind the Bonney Lake Public Safety Building and Bonney Lake post office and the idea came after Leader and her 12-year-old sister, Samantha, discovered her birthday fell on Earth Day.

“Rather than taking her friends roller skating or to the swimming pool, our family teamed up with the city to plant trees at the police station,” said her mom, Cheryl Leader.

With a little planning between the Leader family and the city's Community Services Department, the guests took the opportunity to plant three 14-foot tall Washington hawthorn trees.

H. D. Messinger, who has worked in maintenance and landscaping for 20 years with the city, also serves as an urban forester and was happy to offer the help.

“I thought this was a really great idea,” he said.

Before the group arrived, Messinger prepared a 4-by-18 area for planting the 14-foot tall trees, donated to the city by Ron and Mary Miller. The species he selected are deciduous. They will reach full maturity - about 25 to 30 feet - when Leader graduates from high school.

“The trees are perfect for this project because they don't lose their leaves and they have a pyramidal growth out to the top,” Messinger said.

The party started with a mini-lesson in urban forestry.

“Who knows how many trees Bonney Lake planted this last year?” Messinger asked the excited partygoers.

The children blurted their answers out with guesses ranging between 100 and 200.

“Close - we planted 356 trees.”

“I was just going to say that!” one boy answered.

Messinger explained the important role the habitat-friendly trees play in the environment, such as creating oxygen and providing a means of pollination for bees. The latter has made headlines recently across the world and is a critical topic, he said.

“Each of these are important to our environment,” he said.

Messinger told the children the Community Services Department works hard during inclement weather to make sure trees stay away from power lines.

“Does the wind blow in Bonney Lake?”

“Yeah,” the group answered in unison.

“We don't want little boys and girls or their moms or dads to get hurt, so we make sure our trees are powerline-friendly.”

Each guest swung a pick to loosen the trees' roots before Messinger helped guide each one into its place. Following the planting, Community Services Director Gary Leaf presented Leader with a framed “Junior Urban Forester” certificate and a 2-foot-tall tree donated by Orting tree farmer Eric Smith.

Messinger and Leaf also presented goodie bags filled with treats and information about Beautify Bonney Lake Day, which takes place Sept. 30.

Cheryl Leader said she was delighted with the party and Messinger's enthusiasm.

“The kids wanted to do more,” she said. “Katie already has bigger plans for the environment next year.”

Judy Halone can be reached at jhalone@ courierherald .com.

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