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“Project Tree” adds old-world charm to downtown

by Morgan Ritz

Orange City has a downtown where people look at it and think that they may be in a children’s pop-up book, with its traditional Dutch storefronts, benches that line the main street, and meticulously kept greenery. The trees that line Central Avenue, planted right into the sidewalk, are one thing that adds to the downtown's charm. To help create the downtown that makes Orange City unique, the Dutch Heritage Boosters proposed "Project Tree" in 1991 to help create a space where people felt comfortable and invited.

Although planting trees seems simple, Project Tree took three years to complete and a lot of determination and planning by the DHB.

Downtown Orange City, IA before "Project Tree"

Not everyone was on board when the DHB first presented Project Tree. It took a two-hour city council meeting where people expressed concerns that the trees would obscure the Dutch storefronts and interfere with bleacher seating during the Tulip Festival. Finally, in a divided 3-2 vote, the city council members agreed to implement the Project Tree.

The goal of Project Tree was to emphasize Orange City’s uniqueness compared to other small towns, which is its Dutch heritage. When members of the DHB visited the Netherlands, they noticed many Dutch villages with business districts on tree-lined streets. In true DHB fashion, they wanted to bring that Dutch theme to Orange City.

After the long city council meeting, the DHB faced other obstacles. Funding for the project was a daunting cost. The main cost of the project was the beautiful, yet expensive, grates the trees are planted in and the benches in the downtown area. The City Council and Orange City 21 Foundation helped with funding, but the DHB worked hard to make sure most of the money came from them. They sold many trays of poffertjes during Tulip Festivals, became expert grant writers, and took every opportunity to make Project Tree a reality.

“People don’t every day plant trees in sidewalks,” Marilyn Vander Kooi; a DHB board member, said in an interview with the Sioux County Capital Democrat in 1995. “Less daunting women would have given up.”

Thankfully, the DHB had a determination, expressed by Vander Kooi, to plant the 39 trees that line Central Avenue today to help create the true Dutch feel we all love about Orange City.

Sioux County Democrat 1991 Article on the Tree Project:

Boosters plan tree-lined Central_ Sioux County Capital _ 1991-08-15
Download PDF • 166KB

Morgan Ritz, a native Nebraskan, is a senior public relations major at Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa. This article was researched and written as part of her public relations senior seminar. While working on her blog posts for the Dutch Heritage Boosters website, she came to appreciate Orange City and its history.

1 commentaire

05 avr.

Beautiful and well executed. Many heritage districts across North America know the value of tree-lined streets to tourism, climate regulation and the human physiological response to trees and plant environment.🌳🌳

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