Old Tulip Tree in Washougal’s Parker’s Landing Historical Park Receives Historic Designation

tulip tree in Washougal with a concrete and brick plaza in front of it
The tulip tree (far right) now stands overlooking the VanVleet Plaza in the Parker's Landing Historical Park in Washougal. Photo credit: Rene Carroll

Just like places and buildings, certain trees can receive historic designation. In fact, there are quite a few trees with the Heritage Tree designation in Parker’s Landing Historical Park in Washougal, including an apple grove and cherry and walnut trees. The newest addition is an old tulip tree, that recently was awarded a Heritage Tree of Clark County designation by the Washington State University’s Master Gardener Program.

“There are currently 12 individual trees or groves of trees in the program,” shares Erika Johnson, program coordinator for the Master Gardener Program. “The tulip tree is included in part because of the historical significance of the area in which it sits but also because of its age, size and stature.”

tulip tree in Washougal
The tulip tree is a favorite nesting tree for birds. The flowers attract hummingbirds and have noteworthy value to honeybees. Photo credit: Rene Carroll

The Washougal Tulip Tree History

Based on how quickly tulip trees grow – roughly 2-3 feet a year – Susan Tripp, Parkersville Day volunteer, says their tulip tree was probably planted in the 1970s by Cecil and Mary VanVleet, who lived at the location at that time. “They enjoyed gardening,” shares Tripp. When Cicil and Mary, who was his second wife, had to sell the land to the Port to pay for medical bills, they were allowed to stay in the home as part of the sale, she adds. Cecil died in 1978. Mary moved away and passed in 1979.

At the 2023 Parkersville Day event, WSU Master Gardeners had a booth at the park and were doing tours of tree identification during the event. It was then that they suggested applying to give the tulip tree – along with a locust tree – heritage status. While the age of the tree is taken into consideration, Tripp says the it’s not as important as the tree’s tie to a historical person, story or event.

“The nominated tree is near the location of the VanVleet home, which is now the VanVleet Plaza,” shares Tripp. “The tree would have provided shade on the south side of the home. Standing next to the tree, one sees spectacular views of the Columbia River and Mount Hood.”

twisted tulip tree trunk in Washougal
The tree stands at Parker’s Landing Historical Park, location of the first permanent settler in the state of Washington, David C. Parker, who arrived with his family in 1844. Photo credit: Rene Carroll

Tulip Tree in Parker’s Landing Historical Park Named Heritage Tree

To be declared a Heritage Tree, an arborist had to get accurate tree measurements. Johnson helped them find one who was willing to donate their time to do this through the Vancouver Forestry Program. Then, it takes a few months for the Master Gardeners to make their decision.

Once a tree is labeled a Heritage Tree, the Master Gardeners are not involved in its care, which involves watering, plenty of compost and any careful trimming when needed. “Tulip trees can live up to 300 years. They do best if pruned every three to five years. They prefer full or partial sun,” shares Tripp. “The park tree most likely needs additional care from a volunteer effort.”

The park that the tulip tree now calls home, Parker’s Landing Historical Park, was dedicated on June 1, 1986 exactly 38 years from this year’s Parkersville Day on June 1, 2024, shares Tripp. The park is a national, state and county registered historic and heritage site. See the tulip tree and check out all the family-friendly activities and the annual event celebrating the history of this wonderful park.

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