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oak tree
Peter Kenagy cuts a slab from a 214-year-old Oregon white oak at his farm in North Albany. (David Patton/Democrat-Herald)

Peter Kenagy guided a saw blade horizontally through the massive trunk of a 214-year-old Oregon white oak Thursday morning at his farm in North Albany.

The 3-inch thick slabs he cut go to West and South Albany high schools, where shop students will mill the wood further and use it to make furniture, all in celebration of Arbor Week, April 5-9, said Mark Azevedo of the Albany Tree Commission. He arranged this year’s project.

On April 6, Mike Doolittle of Salem will bring his portable sawmill to SAHS and then to WAHS on April 7.

The city of Albany contracted with Buena Vista Arbor Care to remove the 60-foot-tall oak from Maple Lawn Preschool, 1950 Salem Ave. S.E., for $1,404, said Craig Carnagey, the city’s arborist. The tree had developed root rot and needed to come down. The parts of the tree that did not go to Kenagy were chipped up and will be spread on park trails and in planting beds.

 The city probably will plant another Oregon white oak at the site this fall.

Oregon white oaks once were plentiful in the Willamette Valley, but only 7 percent of the original stands remain, Azevedo said. The trees’ acorns were an important food source for the valley’s Native Americans, he said.

Botanical explorer David Douglas named the tree on his visit in 1825.

The Maple Lawn oak was on part of the property the city received in September 1964 as an estate gift from Robert L. Burkhart, whose family was one of Albany’s founders. The trees are native to the West Coast from British Columbia south to Southern California.

In the year the Maple Lawn oak started to grow, future President James K. Polk was born, Josephine married Napoleon, George Washington crafted his Farewell Address, and Jane Austin wrote the first draft of “Pride and Prejudice.”

Albany has another large Oregon white oak, the Messenger Oak at Heritage Mall.

Other Arbor Week activities in Albany include a Tree City USA Award presentation at the March 24 city council meeting and a tree tour at Oregon State University, probably on April 8, with a return to Albany to see the city’s heritage trees.

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