Planting poplars

For more than three decades, a three-quarter-mile-long row of poplars along I-5 near Exit 19 has announced to locals and tourists alike, "You're about to enter Ashland."

Now many of those trees are dying. But Bear Creek Orchards Inc. is replanting the iconic row, a Harry & David company spokeswoman said.

The poplars were planted in 1976 to provide a wind buffer for the company's pear orchard spreading to the south.

"Some of those really are dying. They are being replanted," said Rhonda Klug, who does brand marketing and communications for the gift company Harry & David. Bear Creek Orchard fruit goes into Harry & David's gift boxes and baskets.

Klug said new trees are being replanted within the existing line of poplars.

"They are older, older poplars. They're really tall and aged," she said.

While many trees can survive for centuries, poplars can be a short-lived species, with some having a lifespan of only a few decades, according to tree experts.

Back in 2005, Bear Creek Orchards managers were keeping an eye on the towering poplars, which were becoming gangly. At that time, the trees were still in good health.

But by 2008, the trees were beginning to show signs of damage, with some residents commenting that they appeared to be suffering.

This summer, the accumulated damage has become even more apparent.

While the poplars have been sheltering the orchard for 35 years, they still have a job to do.

"They do provide a great wind buffer," Klug said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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