Dear Weyerhaeuser: Don’t uproot the bonsai garden | Rudi Alcott

All it takes is a seed to start a tree, but it may take a community to raise one.

Though the trees at the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection lack the physical stature of an old-growth Douglas Fir, the beauty they possess is just as magnificent. Depending on your point of view, they may even surpass it.

As you walk through the bonsai garden during the weekend of the Buds and Blooms festival (May 9-10), go forth understanding that this could be the last time you see these trees in their current state.

In fact, this exhibit was reopened specifically for this event, or you wouldn’t get to see it next weekend. Weyerhaeuser is shuttering this operation until the economy improves. You and I both know that as the company continues to shut down production facilities, the bonsai garden will fall farther down the list. By the time the economy improves, these factories are restarted and the bonsai garden is readdressed, years will have passed. By then, the staff will have been dismissed and reopening will be as tough as repairing a broken bough.

Look, until I visited this facility, my entire knowledge of a bonsai tree came from the cheesy 1980s “Karate Kid” movies. Little did I know that these little trees could be transformed into wonderful pieces of art and sculptures that can last generations.

I find it incredibly ironic that a company such as Weyerhaeuser, which has entire subsidiaries — if not entire companies — based on the harvesting of whole forests decided to shutter the smallest ones of all. I understand that this is not a revenue stream for them, and that their corporate folks must consider this an unnecessary expense.

Believe me, as a publisher of a newspaper in today’s world, I get the whole “revenue vs. expense” issue. But sometimes, even if the bottom line is affected, you have to do what’s right for the community that you represent, live in and dwell in.

Therefore, I implore the seed counters at Weyerhaeuser to look for alternatives before pulling up roots. If they indeed can’t fund this operation, why not open it up for bid? Perhaps the Friends of the Hylebos or PowellsWood garden staff and volunteers could oversee the project, or the city’s parks and rec department would entertain the thought. How about any of the local master gardeners or service groups?

Recently, I was at a city council meeting in Maple Valley for a proclamation day concerning the local gardening club ran by the elementary school. Tell me that a group of fifth-graders who are about the same height as these trees couldn’t relate well to a project like this.

I know this is a long shot. There are likely more reasons not to do it than there are reasons to move forward. But even Johnny Appleseed planted a tree once that grew into a forest. The seed to keep the bonsai garden is planted. Is the community of Federal Way willing to nurture it?

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