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Release your inner tree

The Tacoma Urban Forest Project looks to spruce up downtown (get it?)

URBAN FOREST PROJECT: Aiming to make a powerful visual statement about the environment. Photo courtesy Facebook/Evergreen Tacoma

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Whatever you may think of downtown Tacoma, you likely haven't thought of it as a forest. But it will indeed morph into a metaphorical forest in late March as a part of Tacoma's Arbor Day festivities. The Urban Forest Project will deck out downtown with banners - banners with images of trees designed by members of the community. Maybe even you. If you have a tree inside of you just waiting to get out, this is your chance.

The Tacoma Urban Forest Project is just one of many Urban Forest projects around the country and involves artists and students from all walks of life designing images of trees. These designs are then made into banners and displayed outdoors in participating cities, creating a forest of banners and symbolic trees meant to represent and promote sustainability and remind the public of the importance of our leafy friends.

The original Urban Forest grew in New York City's Times Square, proving that the iconic landmark location is about more than TRL and dropping balls. Cities that have treed up so far include Albuquerque, Baltimore, Denver, Portland and Toledo. This year, Tacoma is joined by Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Tacoma's project is headed up by Ramie Pierce - Urban Forester extraordinaire.

"I'm a certified arborist and tree risk assessor, which helps with the Urban Forester position," says Pierce. "My job includes planning for, managing and preserving natural and planted vegetation in Tacoma."

While professional artists and designers are encouraged to submit their trees, the Urban Forest Project also invites the general public to interpret their ideas of trees and put them on paper. Students of all ages are especially encouraged to design a tree. Break out your box of crayons and hit the sketch pad! Know who else can design a tree? Your mom!

"The project is about using the tree-themed banners to make a powerful visual statement about the environment," says Pierce. "Creating a forest of images in an urban landscape to entertain, provoke and raise awareness of the importance of trees in the city and in our lives, as well as celebrate our creative community."

"Tacoma sought out the project to bring it here after seeing a news article for another city," says Pierce, "and recognized the fantastic potential for raising awareness about the importance of trees in the urban environment and building community."

And you may be thinking, hey, for an event all about trees, this one sure does waste a lot of them with all those banners. But the Urban Foresters have this covered too. At the end of the events in all of the cities, Tacoma included, all banners are recycled into tote bags and auctioned to raise money for local tree-loving and environmentally eager programs.

The official kick-off event is 1-4 p.m. April 2 at Tollefson Plaza but banners will be up at the end of March. The 30 by 60-inch banners will be up on Pacific Avenue between South Ninth and South 21st and on A Street from South Ninth to South 14th.

Artists have until Feb. 14 to submit designs and will be notified of their upcoming fame and arboreal glory the week of Feb. 21. Anyone who wants to know how to design a tree can contact Ramie Pierce at (253) 591-2048 or

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