Mayor Bob Severns has proclaimed 2021 as Year of the Oak to mark 170 years since the seaside city was named after the Garry oak trees on its shores.
The Garry oak is the only native oak species in Washington state. Dr. Richard Lansdale bestowed the city’s current name in 1851 in recognition of the unique tree, although Native Americans had already named the area Klatolletsche.
The proclamation was read during the city council meeting Tuesday night.
Members of the Oak Harbor Garry Oak Society hope residents will take advantage of a few opportunities to celebrate the city’s namesake tree from now until June.
“This is just a reason to kind of celebrate where we live and the specialness of our green infrastructure,” said Oak Harbor Garry Oak Society President Laura Renninger.
One of the ways appreciative arborists can honor the tree is to go on the group’s self-guided Garry oak tour which features 21 “heritage” trees.
“It’s easy to do and you learn a little bit more about each tree when you visit them,” she said.
She also suggested people create oak-inspired chalk art at Windjammer Park, post photos of their favorite trees to social media with #OHGarryOak or visit Smith Park when the wildflowers bloom in April-June.
The group also has two videos about the history of the species in Oak Harbor and how to eat acorns on their website, ohgarryoaksociety.org. Eating acorns involves soaking them in water and turning the tree nuts into flour; the mixture tastes similar to molasses when cooked, according to a Western Washington University professor in the video.
Gardeners should also consider planting a Garry oak in a sunny area, she said, because the population is on the decline.
“The more we can plant now will help us when the old canopy starts to fail,” Renninger said. “When they start to go, what have we got to replace them with?”
People should also keep their eyes out for an announcement around Earth Day in April. Although she couldn’t share the details yet, Renninger said a plan for an outdoor adventure for individuals and families was in the works.
Ultimately, Renninger said she hopes people take some time to respect the city’s namesake and what the mature trees have endured.
“The old ones we have around us now have survived drought, and possibly fires and couple centuries of change — vast change,” she said.