Do­na­tions paid for Capi­tol Christ­mas Tree’s trip

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY JAC­QUE­LINE KLI­MAS

The Capi­tol Christ­mas Tree ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton on Mon­day af­ter a crosscoun­try trek from Wash­ing­ton state and, in keep­ing with the aus­ter­ity that’s con­strain­ing fed­eral spend­ing, the trek didn’t cost tax­pay­ers a penny.

All costs for the 88-foot En­gle­mann spruce and its 5,000-mile jour­ney from Colville Na­tional For­est were paid for with about $400,000 in cash and in-kind do­na­tions raised by Choose Out­doors, a non­profit group that col­lected do­na­tions from the pri­vate sec­tor.

At the tree’s stops across the coun­try, many peo­ple asked what the tree was cost­ing them or which branch of the gov­ern­ment was cov­er­ing the costs, said Jeff Ol­son, pres­i­dent of the or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­motes out­door recre­ation and ac­tive life­styles.

“It’s great when you hear that and you’re able to re­spond that this is paid for by the pri­vate sec­tor,” he said.

The tra­di­tion of a Christ­mas tree at the Capi­tol dates back to 1964, when a 24foot Dou­glas fir tree was planted on the West Lawn of the Capi­tol. That tree was dam­aged by a storm in 1968 and had to be re­moved. The U.S. For­est Ser­vice has se­lected a na­tional for­est to pro­vide the tree ev­ery year, try­ing to ro­tate around the coun­try, since 1970. This year’s is the sec­ond Capi­tol Christ­mas tree from Wash­ing­ton.

Colville Na­tional For­est asked em­ploy­ees to comb through the 1.1 mil­lion acres of land in search of the per­fect Christ­mas tree for the Capi­tol. About 70 trees that fit the cri­te­ria — hav­ing a clas­sic Christ­mas tree shape and be­ing be­tween 65 and 90 feet tall — were nom­i­nated by em­ploy­ees, said Robert Sanchez, dis­trict ranger at the for­est in north­east­ern Wash­ing­ton.

The search prompted some friendly com­pe­ti­tion be­tween em­ploy­ees, he said.

“When we talked to our em­ploy­ees about what it would mean to find the Capi­tol Christ­mas Tree, there were some dis­cus­sions amongst em­ploy­ees that they’re re­ally striv­ing to be that per­son,” Mr. Sanchez said.

Mr. Sanchez was part of the team that nar­rowed the choices down to 10 fi­nal­ists. Then, Ted Bech­tol, su­per­in­ten­dent of the U.S. Capi­tol grounds, made the fi­nal pick.

“I think it did stand out from the other trees by just be­ing a more for­mal shape that I’m look­ing for,” Mr. Bech­tol said. “Uni­for­mity is re­ally im­por­tant, that nice con­i­cal shape and it re­ally does need to look good 360 de­grees.”

Mr. Bech­tol will over­see ef­forts over the next week to get the tree ready for the of­fi­cial light­ing cer­e­mony Dec. 3. Work­ers will be­gin string­ing lights Tues­day and hang­ing thou­sands of or­na­ments made by Wash­ing­ton state res­i­dents Wed­nes­day, he said.

“Hav­ing done this for eight years, I al­ways love see­ing the or­na­ments. School kids make them and some of them are just re­ally crafty,” he said.

This year’s theme is “Shar­ing Wash­ing­ton’s Good Na­ture,” ac­cord­ing to the tree’s of­fi­cial web­site. Or­na­ments are sup­posed to de­pict “the nat­u­ral re­sources, scenic beauty and amaz­ing peo­ple in the state.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner will light the tree at 5 p.m. Dec. 3. Gates will open at 4 p.m. and tick­ets are not re­quired for the light­ing, which also can be viewed online at speaker.gov/live.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The 2013 Capi­tol Christ­mas Tree, an 88-foot-tall En­gel­mann spruce from Colville Na­tional For­est in Wash­ing­ton state, ar­rives Mon­day on Capi­tol Hill ready to be adorned with more than 5,000 home­made or­na­ments be­fore it is lit Dec. 3.

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