A Letter in protest of the City of Tumwater’s decision of euthanasia on the Davis-Meeker Garry Oak.


A Letter in protest of the City of Tumwater’s decision of euthanasia on the Davis-Meeker Garry Oak.

My name is Jesse Brighten, ISA certified arborist and Tree Risk Assessment Qualified. Attending the Tumwater City Council meeting on 5/21/24, I was frankly appalled with the presentation by Lisa Parks, city administrator, and the irrational decisions made to fast track the removal of the historic oak tree, known as the Davis Meeker Garry Oak.

Born and raised within Washington State and living the vast majority of my life within the states of Oregon and Washington, my entire career, nearing two decades within arboriculture, has been exclusively within the Puget Sound Basin. Garry oak, Quercus garryana, has a very limited natural range. While maps show that it ranges from just across the border in Canada and extending southward into the San Juaquin valley in California, this paints an overly broad picture. This is Washington’s—and British Columbia’s–only native species of oak.

The species is a relic of endangered prairie grasslands and currently mainly exists in isolated pockets or small groupings of what use to be broad First Nations ‘agricultural’ grounds. It is a fire-dependent species where fire ecological records suggest regular historic control burns by First Nations with an estimated schedule of 8-12 year intervals, which I am sure varied regionally and seasonally.

This keystone species provides high levels of protein and many medicinal uses. Well beyond human consumption, it was utilized by fauna and created a rich and diverse ecosystem unique to our region. The presence of Garry oak literally increased the amount of wildlife within these Oak Savannas which have all but become lost though its entire range.

Due to the fertile soils within this ecosystem, these areas were the first choice of settlers, hence the importance given by the Oregon Trail Association to the Davis Meeker Oak as a landmark tree and all that has followed post-European settler contact.

While the settlers struggled with agriculture in areas dominated by old growth conifers, forests, the oak savannas of the Pacific Northwest were quickly mowed down to make room for farming. The remaining fragmentation of this special ecosystem is still occurring today with urban expansion into what used to be the Pacific Northwest’s bread basket. This consists of a vast Garry oak woodland throughout the Willamette Valley, South Sound, pockets in the mid and northern Salish Sea, and by 1900 only 10% remained.

The City of Tumwater is aware of the cultural significance of this tree yet has failed to act appropriately to consider this. From their website which admits they are aware this tree could be considered ‘Culturally Modified.’ “The Coastal Salish also used oak for digging sticks to harvest root foodstuffs and to manufacture yellow face paint made from the decaying bark of the oak tree as well as for hide scraping tools, braces for dip nets and firewood.” Additionally, its a well known fact this tree is a trail marker for the Cowlitz trail which has been estimated to have been in use for an excess of 9,000 years by the traditional peoples of the area. https://www.ci.tumwater.wa.us/Home/ Components/FacilityDirectory/FacilityDirectory/48/3381 I ask why have the tribes not been consulted regarding the decision to remove this estimated 400-year-old oak tree as they have known this tree 200 years before Issac Stevens stepped foot onto this land?

The Davis Meeker Oak tree is a historic and multicultural relic and was voted as such by the City of Tumwater in 1995. Unfortunately, from my understanding of the city’s code, this is ‘unique’ as this tree is the only organic life form on the city’s register of historic places. The code, which was written for buildings, structures and the like, DOES allows for variances that recognize their importance. Commonly these buildings are not required to meet modern safety code standards in order to allow for their preservation. An example would be codes for earthquake mitigation where these buildings are likely exempt. This raises some interesting points as it relates to what, by all accounts, appears to be a very healthy tree, yet may have some structural concern. Unlike buildings, trees are self optimizing structures, which even shed limbs as part of this optimization. I’ll touch down on this more later, but for a teaser, risk or consequences of failure is weighed against historic preservation. Within Lisa Parks’s emotional presentation at the Tumwater City Council meeting, what became apparent was an absolute zero- risk policy as it relates to this tree. Many oblique statements were made and exaggerated as if loss of life was imminent or occurring due to this tree sitting alongside a roadway. Comments about a very large limb of 18” in diameter falling from 50’ and striking the roadway were repeated and emphasized, yet I did notice that it was also mentioned that the tips of the limb crossed the fog line. Garry oak is a heavy dense wood, arguably one of the heaviest of our native species. Yet I can personally attest that there is a huge difference from being slapped by the ends of a falling limb and being stuck by the large heavy part (I have a sizable scar as a reminder). Reputable statistics don’t lie, but they can be manipulated to meet an agenda. It’s accurate that civilian (non-tree work accident) tree-related casualties occur in relation to vehicles. The study cited by city administration officials, can be found here:
www.researchgate.net/publication/ 226683183_Human_fatalities_from_wind-related_tree_failures_in_the_United_States_1995-2007

Its findings state there were 407 deaths from tree/wind related failures over the course of 12 years, including tropical cyclones, tornado, and thunderstorms. These are weather events than can bring any tree down. This shows how statistics can be spun to meet any agenda. Most tree failures occur during extreme weather events, and it is rational to compare numbers to other statistics for perspective. In fact the national average of lighting strike related fatalities are 20 events per year and extrapolated over 12 years about 240 deaths nationally. Odds are about the same statistically speaking, of being killed by a tree breaking or struck by lighting.

Arboriculture as it relates to the care and management of trees, which includes assessments, is as much of a science as it is an art form. Tree Risk Assessments have some significant shortcomings and opportunities exist for errors. This is pointed out fairly clearly by my colleague Beowolf Brower’s review of the City’s arborist risk assessment report so I won’t go into much detail about it other than in substance its very accurate. However, I would like to make a few additional points. Unfortunately cultural, social, and environmental significance are elective within our scope of work when assessing trees as our role is specific to the state of the tree itself. Other methods such as Tree Appraisal to aid in determining monetary damages can touch down on this further. This tree meets all of the criteria as it is the only registered Historic Tree within the City of Tumwater. The report itself suggests infighting between the expert subcontractor who provided the sonic tomography. The city arborist hired a third-party consulting firm for an advanced assessment on only one portion of the lower trunk of the tree. We have other tools within the tool box for assessment, such as Static Pull Testing, Root Inspections, and Ground Penetrating Radar. Tree Solutions’s recommendation was to mitigate the tree with some fairly drastic pruning. Yet this was overridden by the city’s arborist who has consistently and stubbornly maintained their recommendation for removal.

As a working professional in the industry, while it is our place to offer recommendations, it ultimately is not our decision but the tree manager’s. Unless the situation is dire and imminent we are trained to offer a series of mitigation options and residual risk ratings for each option. An arbitrary example is a tree classified as high risk that could have a mitigation of installing a cabling system would be reduced to a low risk as long as that cabling system is regularly inspected and maintained. This is my plea for a rational decision for accommodations to be made for retaining the historic and important Davis Meeker Oak.

Jesse Brighten
ISA Certified Arborist PN-7585A
ISA Tree Risk Qualified
ISA Member, PNW-ISA Member

Why hire an Arborist for an assessment? Risks of improper mulching

We have all heard that mulch is beneficial for landscape trees. However, when applied incorrectly it can lead to more problems for your tree. Last summer we were referred from another local arborist to assess and evaluate a stressed tree.

July 29th, 2017
​ Our initial visit to a very stressed tree. 5% of the canopy is still green. Note the mound of mulch up against the trunk of the tree.

Continue reading

Bayview Hall / Goosefoot Cash Store Maple

History is important when assessing a trees condition or health. Approximately 4 years ago this tree lost a large leader, damaging other portions of the crown. Damaged portions of the tree were pruned back to nodes to promote sprout growth in order to allow the tree regenerate lost crown mass. Unfortunately the tree did not respond as hoped, indicating a loss of vigor.

Another party contacted Goosefoot expressing concern of additional limb failure impacting life and property within the parking lot. With further assessment of the Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) we determined that the tree had limited rooting space. With a busy parking lot covering half of the trees root system, and a road on the other half the tree did not have many options for positive rooting space. Additionally the crown of the tree is restricted due to the high voltage power lines across the street.


​Late this winter we began the conversation of the best approach to mitigate risk, benefit the maple, as well as the Bayview community. The balancing act of infrastructure and large tree management always needs to come with compromise. In order to allow the tree to thrive we removed access to 4-5 parking spaces, by placing organic barriers. The choice of using logs has much to do with recreating a sliver of a natural ecosystem.

Additionally we used advanced techniques to alleviate the compaction issue for the tree. Most of the trees fine absorbing roots are in the upper foot of soil where oxygen, water, and nutrients from decaying organic matter is the most plentiful. Soil compaction limits the availability of these resources, coupled with 5 inches of compacted crushed gravel limited this trees ability to respond to damage within the crown. Simply by applying a good wood chip mulch helps tremendously to alleviate these conditions, but it takes time which this tree did not have. This is where air excavation tools, radial trenching, and soil amendments come into play.

Of course there are many ways to decompact and add amendments to soils, but modern air excavation equipment does so with the least amount of impact and damages to the existing root system. Trenches were blown into the soil, then amended with a blend of excavated material and mushroom compost. Mushroom compost was chosen due to the high organic matter coupled with a favorable carbon to nitrogen ratio. The last touch was to break up the gravel layer and add 4-5″ of ‘Arborist mulch.’

It was alarming how compacted the soil was underneath the gravel. Another significant observation was how dry the soils were. This April has had a significant amount of rainfall, with saturated soil throughout the Puget Sound region. This was not the case for our poor maple tree!

The next step was to work the crown of the tree, to help stimulate interior growth, remove large deadwood, and thin/reduce lower lateral limbs. Some of the larger pruning will need to wait until the trees leaves fully expand for the season. Spring pruning vigorous healthy trees can stimulate a strong growth response, however it’s stressful for ailing trees. ​​

Langley Main Street and the City of Langley

Ivy removal, light crown raising, and deadwood removal.

Jesse Brighton of Arbor Dreams has brought back the view from Boy & Dog park by trimming the tree next to Ott & Murphy. He also cleaning up the Ivy growing on the tree and revealed again the little chickadee on the old lamp post. What a clear view. Thank You Jesse!
Sponsored by Langley Main Street and the City of Langley

Lights strung up around Langley’s business district

Lights strung up around Langley’s business district

Lights strung up around Langley’s business district

Mon Nov 23rd, 2015 7:03pm

Festive white lights are all aglow in Langley’s business district, including a capstone strand on the massive maple tree at Whale Bell Park.

The new lights illuminate the dark nights downtown and along the path to Seawall Park.

Following the advice of Jesse Brighten of Arbor Dreams, Langley Main Street Association purchased globes that can attach with wide straps to the tree, rather than string lights which an injure branches. Brighton used his tree climbing expertise to place the globes from top to bottom.

This is part of the ongoing work by the organization to “Light the Night” in the fall and winter. Lights were added to trees on First and Second streets, at Langley City Hall and the Langley Library.

Several holiday festivities are planned in Langley. The Lighting of Langley, a tree lighting ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28 at Langley Park on the corner of Second Street and Anthes Avenue. Singing carols, sipping hot chocolate and cider, and pictures with Santa will be available. The Holly Jolly Christmas Parade will meander through town, starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5. A Candy Cane Christmas Gingerbread House decorating session is set for Sunday, Dec. 13 at Sweet Mona’s on Second Street, between Anthes and Cascade avenues.

Arborist Discussion of Shoreline Tree Care & Rigging Demonstration for Slope Work



Arborist Discussion of Shoreline Tree Care & Rigging Demonstration for Slope Work |
Jesse Brighton, ISA Certified Arborist, Arbor Dreams Tree Care

An outdoor session focused on “lessons learned” while working with homeowners on shoreline tree care, and an overview of rigging strategies to clear pruned tree limbs or debris from slopes along shorelines. A chance to look and discuss gear and tools for safe work in tricky environments.

November Storms

It has been quite the year for storms in the past 12 months. Many trees have fallen, and some which were very large. Everyone seems to have a story, power out for 4 days, trees across cars, flying limbs, and electrical wires down every where. It’s times like these island life shows it’s true colors, within hours chainsaws were firing off, and neighbors were helping each other out.

The chainsaw shelves were bare at the local saw shops, however the safety shelf was untouched. Nearly every homeowner/rancher grade saw was sold out. While there was only one vacant space where the chainsaw chaps hang. Fallen trees present many hazards and unpredictable situations can occur. Trees can be loaded guns of pressures, and entire logs can move or shift like a coiled spring being released. Uprooted stumps will tip back into the earth, putting tons of weight in motion as logs swing vertically back into the air.

Chainsaws are the most dangerous power tools ever made, and have relatively few safety features. For every saw sold there should be a full assortment of safety gear purchased. This includes operator instructions, chaps which will bind the chain if contact is made, impact resistant glasses, and hearing protection.

Some situations these storms create, can be easily managed by the average person. However many even present the pros with unique challenges. It is all too often when a seemingly simple task can take a turn for the worst when a situation arises where one is not prepared. Knowing how to identify, create, and execute a safe efficient working plan are the major differences from amateurs to pros. In addition to home owners, and helpful neighbors there are many business which see the opportunity of a fast buck offering storm clean up services. Frequently these are companies which primary mow lawns, “handy man” services, and landscape companies. Many of which are working outside of the legal bounds of licencing, insurance, and other requirements. I could go on and on about this last topic, but the important thing to remember is just because someone could do this, doesn’t mean they should.

Celebrate Arbor Day This Friday

Celebrate Arbor Day This Friday

Come join Jesse Brighten, of Arbor Dreams, an ISA Certified Arborist, for a free informal Arbor Day demonstration!

Watch as we remove the Christmas lights from Langley’s prize oak tree, near the Dog House at the whale bell park. On First Street.

11 AM:

Live rope climbing demonstration, while removal of the lights takes place.

Learn how an Arborist moves through the tree canopy with non invasive climbing techniques.

12 noon to 1:30 PM(about):

What is a Arborist?

Learn how to properly plant a tree, and what to look for when picking out a tree from the nursery.

Observe samples of improperly pruned trees, along with potential problems to look for in your trees.

Also learn what to look for when hiring some one to prune your trees.

This is an all ages event. It will be informal, outdoors with no seating provided.  There will be a table set up with samples and some tools to view up close.