Every spring our education and outreach forester, Dick Powell, gears up for Spring School Tours. Teachers from Philomath, Corvallis, Albany and other surrounding towns are eager for their students to get outside and learn about forests and plants. Our company is in business to grow trees for eventual harvest. We are eager to teach children and adults about what we do. Growing trees is really no different than growing a garden in your backyard except that our timeline is fifty to seventy years instead of just one season. Nonetheless, we have to find good stock (seedlings) to plant, control the weeds early on, and monitor our big garden (aka 80,000 acres of forestland) to make sure that the trees are growing well.
Most of the 300 children that will visit Starker Forests this spring will visit our Memorial Trail near Blodgett. Our trail is designed to teach visitors about growing trees from seedling to harvest. We ask the kids many questions about what they think the trees need to grow well. Water, sunlight, nutrients and oxygenâ€¦.the same things every plant needs to grow. When trees fight for these things they need to live we call it competition. Children think it is pretty fun to be human trees when we tell them that we need to â€œthinâ€ them out and send them to the mill to become paper towels or lumber. For some reason, elementary school boys get quite a kick out of being sent to the mill to become toilet paper!
It is easy to teach kids about our forests when you can make comparisons to things in their lives. A favorite comparison is to ask kids if they have a garden at home and ask them to think about what makes a garden grow well. Our Western Oregon forests receive over 60 inches of rain per year. We thin our forests, just like gardeners thin their carrots. We control weeds, just like the home gardener. When it comes time to harvest, we ask children to list all the things they can think of in their own houses that are made from trees. Once they get the idea, they quickly rattle off items from cereal boxes to closet doors that are made from trees.
Spring is a great time to visit our trail as the trees are beginning their yearly growth. Watching the buds break open and begin to grow soft, light green needles is very exciting. Trees, like people, grow at different rates and times. Two trees growing next to one another rarely look alike and may not be growing at the same rate.
As we approach the end of the one-quarter mile trail, we arrive at the Memorial Rock. The large stone has a plaque for each member of the Starker Family who has died. Children, being children, often quickly ask if anyone is buried there. No, we tell them, this stone represents the location where TJ Starker bought his first forestland in 1936. It is a special place for the Starker family. Also, this location is where we can explain to the children that the forest is a special place for work and recreation for many, many people. The forest will and should be taken care of so that many generations of growers and users can enjoy the outdoors.
To find out more about our tours, contact our office at 541-929-2477 or contact us through our website or Facebook.