Harper home to champion tree

It’s not official yet, but South Kitsap is home to one of the largest trees in the nation — and perhaps the world.

The national champion Vine Maple is Kitsap County’s first national champion tree, although many state champions have been made official over the years in the American Forest registry.

Situated on private property less than a mile from where a state champion Black Cottonwood was discovered last year, Harper’s Vine Maple is 55 feet tall and more than five feet wide, with a crown of 50 feet.

The tree was measured several months ago by forester Jim Trainer.

“This is the only area in the country where there are Vine Maples, so it’s not just a national champion, it’s probably a world champion,” Trainer said. “I checked with the University of Washington — they’ll come out sometime in the spring and do the official measurement.”

Trainer said the Vine Maple in Harper is approximately 110 years old. The current national champion is located in Olympic National Park.

Trainer said he is concerned about protecting champion trees in Kitsap County.

His organization, Kitsap Trees, is responsible for much of the tree conservation efforts in Kitsap County.

Trainer drafted the Heritage Tree Conservation Easement and sent it last year to Kitsap County Commissioner Patty Lent for possible adoption in parts of the county not under city jurisdiction.

The easement states, in its first line, “the Kitsap Trees’ Easement Agreement provides an option to people who want to legally protect their trees from future development, mal-pruning, or removal.”

Certain trees on public land are protected. A property owner can choose to protect a tree on his or her property forever, no matter who else ends up owning the property in the future.

According to Trainer, there are many trees in Port Orchard targeted as significant trees, including Douglas Firs in Olalla Park, trees in Retsil and several old-growth Western White Pines. Old-growth trees are at least 200 years old.

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