RICKREALL -- Planting cottonwood trees along Highway 22 at Rickreall Dairy has become an annual tradition.
"It wasn't something we planned on being an annual event, but it's turned out that way," said Jackie Hastings, coordinator of the Rickreall Watershed Council. "Hopefully, this will be the last year."
Some 1,000 poplar trees were planted by dairy employees in February of 1999. Almost 400 of the trees were destroyed by vandals under cover of darkness.
Members of the watershed council organized 20 volunteers to replant the trees. Vandals struck again.
Volunteers and dairy employees replanted the trees -- again -- Feb. 17. It took them a little more than an hour to plant 540 new cottonwoods.
Louie Kazemier, the owner of the dairy, said there's no way to guarantee vandals will not strike again. He just hopes intelligence and common decency will prevail in the long run.
The trees are not just a way to make Highway 22 pretty. Dairy owners spray recycled water on a field next to the highway to irrigate crops for the cows.
Trees keep the spray from drifting on to the highway. Or toward Rickreall Creek.
That's why members of the watershed council take a personal interest in the project, Hastings said. About 15 people showed up this year for the replanting.
Among the volunteers were several children. "It was really neat for them to be involved," Hastings said.
"We had a very good turnout."