Mr. Silvers’ generosity will long be appreciated

Written by Jayson Jacoby May 18, 2014 07:57 pm

The new trees cast only thin shadows over the sidewalks north of the Fairgrounds rodeo arena but their significance, it seems to me, looms much larger than their meager shelter.

We who love trees must of course leaven our affection with patience. Much more patience, certainly, than we invest in the sowing of a vegetable garden or an expanse of grass, either of which yields its final products in a matter of weeks or perhaps a few months.

Trees are nothing as ephemeral as a row of peas or corn, but the greatness of a tree accumulates only over many years.

There is I think a slight similarity in this respect between trees and children.

Neither arrives fully developed. We watch as they grow into their potential, striving always to give them all they need to prosper. We rejoice when they achieve milestones (first autumn display of brilliant foliage, first straight-A’s report card) and we despair when they falter (first wind-snapped limb, first time late bringing the car back and with a dent in the fender).

The legacy of the new trees at the Fairgrounds belongs to one man: Anthony Silvers.

Silvers, a Baker City restaurateur, home designer and landscape architect, died in 2011. He bequeathed to the city an $800,000 endowment that will be used to buy trees for the city’s public spaces.

Last month the city’s Tree Board, which will help decide how to spend the interest from Silvers’ gift, planted 25 trees along Grove and D streets at the north side of the Fairgrounds.

This was the first of what I’m sure will be many arboreal additions to the city made under Silvers’ name. Given the substantial amount of money he left, and the long lives of trees, his gift ought to last for as long as the city does.

This seems to me as fine a tribute as any man can make to a place he obviously loved.

To my eye, trees say as much about a town as its buildings do. Baker City, I believe, has ample reason to boast about both.

The Arbor Day Foundation has designated Baker City as a Tree City USA for 29 straight years — a streak exceeded by just four other Oregon cities.

But that recognition, though well-deserved, is based on statistical factors — appointing a tree board and passing a tree ordinance, for instance.

If you asked me about Baker City’s trees I wouldn’t talk about per capita spending on trees or recite from a resolution passed by the City Council.

I would try instead to describe the fragrance of bitter cherry blossoms on a May day when the air falls softly on a bare arm, neither spring nor summer but a perfect and soothing combination of both seasons.

I would endeavor to explain how my heart swells when I walk beneath the brilliant chandelier that is a weeping birch on a clear day in late October.

I would extoll the sight of a ponderosa pine at dawn after a heavy fall of snow, and wax rhapsodic about the bliss of standing in the shade of a great maple on an August afternoon.

I’d like to think that Mr. Silvers’ affinity for Baker City’s trees was similarly sensuous.

Regardless, his generosity ensures that all of us, residents and visitors, will always have an abundance of trees to appreciate in our own way. 

Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.