Amy Boyle stood on the straight path carved into Astoria's Pioneer cemetery and watched as her daughter, Madison, heaved an adult-sized shovel into the thick grass.

Madison, 9, was digging a deep hole, just large enough to hold the roots of an Indian Summer crab apple tree. Around her, 25 other similar holes were being excavated by about 50 people. 

"Put it down, step on it, and then jump off," Boyle said to her daughter. 

As Madison's shovel pushed deeper into the soil, her sister McKenzie, 3, came over to help.

"Now I get it," Madison said as progress continued. "I'm starting to hit roots. I love digging!"

Amy Boyle and her four children made up just a handful of the more than 100 volunteers who hit the streets Thursday morning to plant about 120 trees at Astoria landmarks. 

The event marked several noteworthy occasions in a single celebration - Astoria's upcoming bicentennial, Pacific Power's 100th birthday and of course, Earth Day.

Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen greeted the flocks of volunteers who gathered at the Columbia River Maritime Museum earlier that morning. He thanked Pacific Power for donating the trees and the volunteers from many local organizations for giving their time and elbow grease to get the trees in the soil. And then, he gave everyone some very specific instructions.

"Now I have a special request - and that's that everyone have fun!" he said.

Pacific Power President Pat Reiten greeted the crowd, saying how great it was to be on "home turf."

"Pacific Power serves 3/4 million customers in three states ... but it all started here in 1910," Reiten said. This year, the electric company is providing the four original communities it served in the early 1900s with lasting legacy gifts. Also on the list are Pendleton and Walla Walla and Yakima, Wash. 

Arline LaMear, the chairwoman of the Bicentennial Tree Committee and an Astoria city councilor, wrapped up the pre-planting gathering at the museum by recalling a historic tree planter everyone there would recognize.

Johnny Appleseed, she said, was a person who changed the world all on his own.

"Johnny left a legacy across our nation, and today, Pacific Power is leaving a legacy as well - 200 trees for our 200th anniversary," LaMear said.

The trees will become a legacy for many of the volunteers who planted them as well. About two hours later, Kelly Riutta watched her two children planting a tree together at the cemetery, and said the experience would have a lasting impression on her family as they grow alongside the tree.

"We can walk up here and look at them," she said. While 4-year-old Aidan and 9-year-old Ashton had worked in the garden before, this was the first time they had planted a tree. She hopes to see more family-friendly community projects in Astoria because of what it teaches her kids.

"I think it's good to see everyone coming together," Riutta said.

The team at the cemetery was just one of 16 who planted the commemorative trees on Thursday. A diverse group - from the U.S. Coast Guard and Tongue Point Job Corps Center landscaping students, to local school children, Boy and Girl Scout troops, teachers and community leaders - dug holes all over town for flowering crabapple, cherry, maple, ginko and other ornamental tree varieties.

Most went to public places like the Astoria Column, the Flavel House, schools, the Custom House, and many were were made available for city residents to plant in their yards.

The first to end up in the ground were 10 Royal Burgundy Prunus, or flowering cherry, trees, placed in the ground with ceremonial golden shovels by Van Dusen and Reiten, placed on the east side of the Maritime Museum, near the RiverWalk.

"This was a special day in Astoria," Van Dusen said. "I was proud to be a part of it and watch the community come together in the effort."  


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