Parks offer living classroom to learn more about trees

With spring weather here, this is a great time to head over to Wright Park and explore this 27-acre site that includes a collection of native and exotic trees, many more than 100 years old.

The original plantings included trees from all over North America and Europe. Later plantings added trees from Asia and South America.

Currently, there are more than 600 trees of 155 varieties in the park. Many of the trees are labeled with their names and places of origin. A tree map is available in the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory gift shop.

The park district’s early commissioners and superintendents took great care to make Wright Park a showpiece for the developing city of Tacoma and arranged a wide diversity of trees along pathways and in shady groves.

Among the special trees are a Yoshino cherry that was part of the original shipment from Japan to the Tidal Basin planting in Washington, D.C., two different hickories from the southeast United States, and a Monkey Puzzle tree from Chile. Twenty-eight of the original trees are now state champions — the largest of their kind known to exist in Washington. Twelve of the champions are labeled as such, and you can find them with the self-guided tour map.

The original planting plan has been lost, but visitors can still see much of the historic layout in the patterns of the old trees. These patterns have been respected throughout park improvements and renovations over the last century, and the park district continues to plant young trees in the tradition of providing beauty and diversity for all to enjoy.

But Wright Park is not the only place you can you find old trees — really old trees.

Point Defiance Park has trees that were around long before Tacoma became a city. It’s full of old-growth forest, meaning trees that range from 200-500 years old. Perhaps the best known is the Mountaineer Tree, a Douglas fir estimated to be 450 years old. You can find it on the outer loop of Five Mile Drive between the Vashon and Dalco Passage viewpoints.


Metro Parks is fortunate to have land containing a variety of native ecosystems. In addition to old growth at Point Defiance, the district has young forest at Swan Creek, oak woodlands at Oak Tree and Wapato Hills, and wetlands at China Lake and DeLong parks.

Urban natural areas are greatly impacted by heavy use and the activities around them. Their public benefits can be enhanced with intervention to reduce the impacts of invasive species, erosion and illegal use, and by encouraging native plants and promoting appropriate uses. Stewardship activities build public knowledge and appreciation of urban nature and also provide neighborhood benefits by improving public perceptions of the health, safety and attractiveness of our properties.


Families can do more than just look at the variety of trees and the forests in our area. The urban forest managed by Metro Parks Tacoma serves an educational function as well as providing the social, environmental and health benefits of the urban forest as a whole. Individuals, as well as school and other groups, can use the urban forest for passive and active learning opportunities. Tours, events, classes and signs are a few of the many possibilities to learn more about the forest.

Stewardship activities, such as planting, trail maintenance and weed control, provide opportunities for public involvement and education while helping to keep our parks in good condition.