'It only grows in Gresham and that makes it cool'

'It only grows in Gresham and that makes it cool'
Fourth graders at Hogan Cedars Elementary School in Gresham are learning all about the Hogan Cedar, which is proposed to be the city's official tree. Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com Producer/Reporter.

GRESHAM, Ore. - Gresham is about to have its own city tree and a group of 4th graders will be presenting the City Council with a gift to commemorate the occasion.

The Hogan Cedar, a unique form of the Western Red Cedar, was chosen to symbolize Gresham because it is something that is exclusive to the city.

You see, even though the tree is sold internationally, the origin of all of the Hogan Cedars in the world can be traced back to Gresham, specifically a small stand of trees where Hogan Road meets Johnson Creek.

It's the only spot in the city where you will find Hogan Cedars - and basically the only place in the world where they grow naturally. There are occasional stands of narrow forms of Western Red Cedar in other places in the world, but Gresham's Hogan Cedar has the most narrow form, according to Tina Osterink, the City of Gresham's Natural Resources Planner.

The city's Urban Forestry Subcommittee first brought up the idea of making the Hogan Cedar the city tree back in the 1990s but it wasn't until 2011 that the proposal gained some momentum.

A year later, the Mayor and City Council are poised to make it happen. Coming up on Dec. 18 at 3 p.m., the City Council will hear the proposal from a committee and then 4th graders from Hogan Cedars Elementary School will give the council their tree ornaments. For the kids who go to the school, which is named after the tree, it's a big deal.

"It only grows in Gresham and that makes it cool," said 10-year-old Kensie Collier, one of several students who are making tree ornaments to give to the city. The kids are also planning on writing a song about the Hogan Cedar.

We stopped by the school on Tuesday to take a look at what the students are making for the city. They have already created their ceramic molds and we watched them place them in a kiln so the molds could be heated and hardened. It's an overnight process and once the trees are ready, then comes the fun part - decorating them.

Fourth grade teacher Sandy Duty helps her students place their tree molds into a kiln on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com Producer/Reporter.

For these students, though, this is more than just an art project. They are also learning a great deal about Hogan Cedars along the way.

"My kids have been working on all the facts about it and they are making books and drawing pictures of the trees," their teacher, Sandy Duty, told us. "They are very excited. They are learning so much - even the vocabulary that comes with it, like horticulture. They've really learned a lot."

The grove of Hogan Cedars in Gresham. Photos courtesy of the City of Gresham.

We sat and talked to the kids about the Hogan Cedar tree and it was clear how excited they have become about the project. Each student has created a booklet about the Hogan Cedar and 9-year-old Grant Devries told us some of what he had written about the tree.

"The Hogan Cedar tree can grow up to 40 feet tall," he said, reading from his writing. "The length can be 20 feet wide. It only grows in Gresham, Oregon and is mostly found by Hogan Road and Johnson Creek."

"What I wrote on my paper is that it can represent a lot more things than just Gresham," said 10-year-old Elora Riley. "Like Hogan Road and our school, since we're named after it."

We asked the kids what they plan to tell the Mayor and City Council and got a bunch of bashful smiles. They honestly haven't thought that far ahead yet. But they do know why they feel the Hogan Cedar should be Gresham's city tree.

"Because it only grows in Gresham," said Riley. "And because it's a coniferous tree and it's really cool."