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Covington replaces damaged community tree
A vandal may have caused fatal damage to the city’s holiday tree but Covington officials didn’t let the destruction hamper the spirit of the season.
A new tree was planted less than a week after someone sawed into the community tree, a 35-foot Spruce, the early morning hours of Dec. 1. In its place in the Don Henning Roundabout at 168th Place Southeast a 25-foot-tall Mountain Hemlock now stands after it was planted Dec. 7.
Covington City Councilman Jeff Wagner described the vandal as a Grinch as he recalled the origins of the city’s holiday tree lighting which began almost a decade before incorporation.
In 1988, when the councilman first opened the doors of Wagner’s Crafts in Covington Square, the owner of the shopping center would pay to bring in a tree that was then set up in a hole in the ground where the Auto Zone now sits.
Wagner helped pay to decorate the temporary Christmas tree, which he described as the original community holiday tree that was set up annually well before Covington was even a city.
“We did that the first Friday of December for years,” Wagner said. “Then the city of Covington and parks department worked to decorate the tree in front of Fred Meyer. The one in front of Fred Meyer was the original planted Christmas tree but the one that was put in every year where Auto Zone now sits was the original Christmas tree. We used to have hundreds of people come to the tree lighting when Santa Claus would come in every year on a fire truck.”
That tree in front of Fred Meyer, which was located near the corner of 168th Place and Southeast 272nd Street, came down in March 2008. It was diseased, Wagner said, not to mention being in the path of construction for the road which needed to be upgraded as the city prepared for the construction of Costco.
Once the roundabout, which was named after Covington Councilman Don Henning who died in 2007, was complete in October 2008 the new tree was placed. At the time it was 25 feet tall.
For Wagner, the damage done to that tree was “gut wrenching.”
“Even though I didn’t do anything to plant that tree, I’m taking it personally, because it’s our tree, it’s our community holiday tree,” Wagner said. “I think it’s a shame that the Grinch had to come and cut the tree down. As soon as I heard about it, that’s the first thing that came to mind, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’ It’s a shame that someone had to do that for their own personal reason.”
Still, it did not dampen the spirit of the tree lighting event later that day, Wagner said.
“It had to be the biggest crowd we had since the tree went into the Don Henning Roundabout,” he said. “It was nice to see the support from the community.”
A second tree lighting ceremony was scheduled for Wednesday, after the Reporter went to press.
According to information provided by Karla Slate, Covington’s community relations coordinator, the city will accept donations to help defray the costs associated with replacing the community tree. Donations can be made by mail or in person at Covington City Hall, 16720 SE 271st St. Suite 100, Covington, 98042.
Covington staff are also working with Crime Stoppers, which will offer up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the vandal.
To report tips anonymously, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or provide a web tip at www.crimestoppers.com.
For more information send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Community Relations Coordinator Karla Slate at 253-480-2402.