SWEET HOME — Think you’ve got a good eye for picking out your family’s Christmas tree? Do you love exploring the great outdoors, especially the Willamette National Forest?
Well, the Sweet Home Ranger District has a challenge for you: Find the “perfect” tree to become the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree that will grace the west lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Each year since 1970 the Capitol Tree has come from of the country’s national forests. The 2013 tree came from Washington State, and in 2002 the tree came from the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon.
Friday morning, on the historic Weddle Covered Bridge in Sankey Park, forest officials urged the public to head into the Sweet Home Ranger District with camera and GPS in hand to search for the Douglas-fir or noble fir tree they think should represent Oregon.
“We are super excited to be here,” Nikki Swanson, Sweet Home District Ranger said, flanked by two trees decorated with ornaments made by district employees. “We are thrilled about this honor.”
Swanson said that in addition to the 65- to 85-foot tree, another 75 trees will also come from the forest and will be used to decorate other government buildings in Washington, D.C.
Swanson added that individuals and families can also participate by making ornaments to decorate the trees.
“We will need 10,000 ornaments handmade by the people of Oregon for the people’s Christmas tree,” Swanson said.
She encouraged families and groups to get together for ornament making events. The first local event will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Sweet Home Boys & Girls Club, 890 18th Ave.
Diane Guidry, Region 6 Deputy Regional Forester, said that national forests in Oregon and Washington issue more than 56,000 Christmas tree permits annually in addition to providing numerous recreational opportunities, harvesting timber to construct homes and offering habitat for a broad range of wildlife species.
She encouraged the public to visit their public lands and to enjoy the great outdoors.
Mayor Greg Mahler said the selection of the tree from the Sweet Home Ranger District will provide the community with numerous opportunities to show others what a wonderful community Sweet Home is.
“As a community we can come together to help make the ornaments; maybe hold a parade in November as the tree begins its journey to Washington, D.C.,” Mahler said. “We can hold our tree lighting event simultaneously with the White House and have the opportunity to build partnerships on a national level. This is a great opportunity we can show the country just how great our little town is.”
Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker said his family plans to travel along with the tree as it makes a reverse Oregon Trail journey to the nation’s capital.
The tree will leave Oregon in November and make numerous stops in communities along the way. Oregonians are invited to sign a banner that will adorn the tree’s trailer — creating a Christmas card from Oregon.
The public can follow its journey at www.capitolchristmastree.com.
This year’s theme is “Find Your Trail!,” in recognition of two 2018 anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, and the 175th commemoration of the Oregon Trail.
“This will allow us to show others how we grow some of the best timber in the world, while cleaning the air, sequestering carbon and restoring habitat,” Tucker said. “We can showcase how our Christmas trees — often Douglas-firs — are farmed, cut, wrapped and send around the world. Oregon trees are recognized for their color, fragrance, shape and freshness.”
Tucker said Christmas tree farms are a $90 million annual industry in Oregon and 92 percent of those trees are shipped out of state.
Tucker said he hopes the national tree will cause many people to talk with Oregonians about the importance of timber-oriented jobs, plus new technologies such as cross-laminated lumber for buildings.
Other guest speakers were Juine Chada of Sen. Ron Wyden’s office, Linea Gagliano, director of Global Communications with Travel Oregon and Bruce Ward, director of Choose Outdoors.