SEATTLE — It's called The Emerald City. But Seattle is down to its last big trees. Two of them live on Eleanor Owen's parking strip.
"The tree was probably planted in 1908. And I was born in 1921. It's got a few years on me,” Owen said, referring to one of her two enormous chestnut trees. Both are considered 'exceptional' - meaning their trunks measure more than 30 inches in diameter.
Dominic Barrera, executive director of Plant Amnesty, helped the 98-year-old measure her trees the same way he's measuring a big deodar cedar near his office in Magnuson Park: It's part of a campaign called The Last 6000.
'We're calling it a tree census of sorts,” said Barrera.
This tree census is a citizen science project that invites Seattleites to tally their trees.
"The name 'The Last 6000' is based off a 2016 aerial tree canopy study that suggested that there were 6338 exceptional trees left in the city. And that was kind of a striking number to us. Because it seems pretty low,” Barrera explained.
The Last 6000 aims to locate and measure the city's last big trees. And it shows people how to determine if their tree qualifies as exceptional using a few simple tools - and some easy math. After dividing the circumference by Pi, Barrera announces the cedar he’s measuring has a diameter of forty-nine inches. “Very exceptional!”
The Last 6000 campaign is using social media and asking private citizens to help out because a lot of these trees are on private property. The hope is the count will encourage conservation.
"And these trees really do so much carbon capturing and noise pollution capturing and stormwater cleaning and retaining. So they are very important public utilities,” explained Barrera.
Eleanor Owen doesn't need any convincing that her trees are exceptional. And she would never cut down the two she has that are among The Last 6000.
"Absolutely not. Not ever. At least not as long as I'm here. And I think that will be a while yet.” Owen said.