Children and trees have a lot in common. They both take food, water, sunlight and nurturing to reach their full potential. Parker’s Landing Historical Park in Washougal is home to a few very special heritage trees that the community of Clark County has taken care of for generations so that the next generations can enjoy them for years to come.
The History of the Parker’s Landing Historical Park Trees
The trees, one walnut (an English walnut grafted to a black walnut), two cherry and five apple, were designated as heritage trees in 2022. According to Susan Tripp, Parkerville events coordinator, the trees are estimated to be around 70 years old, with the apple trees being what’s left of a 20-tree orchard. “The walnut was one of two,” she adds. “The older one was planted in 1878 and was in a 1938 photo.”
A heritage tree is a tree that has historical significance, either because of its age, size, rarity, or relation to a famous person, event or place. Susan explains that the WSU Extension Clark County Master Gardener program maintains a list of trees of significance in unincorporated Clark County through its Heritage Tree Program.
“The primary purpose is to engage the community in the park history,” shares Susan. “The heritage trees at Parker’s Landing Historical Park are associated with a national, state and county registered historic site. They are associated with three generations of the Van Vleet family. The family has a notable history and residence in Parkersville, established by David C. Parker. Parker was the first permanent American settler in Washington. He arrived in November 1844 while the British at Fort Vancouver held claim to the land north of the Columbian river.”
The family’s long history – tracing back to the Parker family, who married into the Van Vleet family – includes founding Parkersville on May 1, 1854. In 1969, Cecil Van Vleet – son of Louisa Parker Van Cleet – sold the land to the Port of Camas-Washougal to pay his medical bills from a bad car accident on the condition that he could continue to live there. “Before he lived there, the Parker’s Landing dairy sold raw milk from a little green house on the property,” adds Susan. “A silo on the property by the cherry trees is a reminder of the dairy farm. The silo was made into a planter by the Soroptimists of Camas and Washougal in 1988 prior to the Washington Centennial celebration.”
From the 1970s to 1990s, the Garden Club of Camas and Washougal maintained the parks flora, including pruning and weeding. “There is a wooden shed on the property from that time with their trowels and twine,” shares Susan. “Last summer the Garden Club came back to provide deep watering for the heritage trees and roses along with Journey Church, Rotary, Scouts, and PNHS Advisory Committee to the Port. The Port supplied hoses and nozzles. There are no sprinklers in the park due to the archeological findings. The Lions club and Journey church helped with the annual April and May vegetation clean-up and park beautification.”
The Soroptimists of Camas and Washougal still plants and maintains the gardens in the silo.
Local Clark County Company Donates Tree Pruning
Local businesses also help take care of the heritage trees at Parker’s Landing Historical Park. Cascade Tree Works, LLC helped with the heritage tree nomination in 2022 and came back this year, donating time to provide the vital pruning to keep the trees healthy.
“Pruning reduces the length of branches to prevent breakage from heavy fruit years or weather and removes dead or diseased branches,” explains Susan. “During the recent high winds that slammed Washougal, one heritage apple lost a major branch.”
But it’s not without its risks, pruning needs to be done correctly, or it can also cause harm. “Because of how damaging bad pruning can be, and how valuable trees are, it’s important to hire a local expert that has fruit tree pruning experience and is a certified arborist by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). Richard Kemmerly, the arborist for Cascade Treeworks, LLC is ISA certified,” she adds.
You can see these amazing old trees for free by heading to Parker’s Landing Historical Park in Washougal. Companies who have donated to help keep the trees and the park maintained are listed on flyers near the water feature. Thank these companies for their donations by giving them your business.
Learn More Clark County History at Parkersville Day
The WSU Master Gardener Program of Clark County oversees the Heritage Tree Program. They will have a booth at the 2nd Annual Parkersville Day, on June 3, 2023. Their arborist will answer questions about the heritage trees, pruning, and will give a walking tour of the heritage trees while naming other trees at Parker’s Landing Historical Park. Follow Park activities on the Parker’s Landing Historical Park Facebook page. If interested in volunteering, email ParkersvilleHeritageFoundation@gmail.com.