Little girl signs tree truck

On Dec. 2, members of the public will have an opportunity to see the 2015 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree all aglow after it made the long journey from Seward, Alaska to Washington, D.C. 

Since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has chosen a different national forest to contribute the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. 

For the first time ever, Alaska will contribute the tree that sits on the west lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. It’s commonly known as the ‘People’s Tree.’ An 80-foot truck fueled with Shell diesel transported the tree across the country to Washington, D.C. this past fall. 

The tree began its journey with a community celebration in Seward, Alaska before it prepared for the 4,000-mile expedition by land and sea. About 15 community celebrations took place throughout the journey, and the nationwide celebration culminates with the official tree lighting on Dec. 2. 

Over 4,000 handmade Alaskan ornaments designed and created by community groups, artists and school children across Alaska decorate the tree along with numerous companion trees that reside in congressional offices.

Tree comes from a unique forest 

Of the 154 national forests in the United States, the Chugach is both the northernmost and westernmost. The Chugach is one of the largest national forests in the system at over 5 million acres.

The tree is a 74-foot Lutz spruce, and it’s a hybrid between a white spruce and a Sitka spruce. The 90-year-old tree comes from the Kenai Peninsula. Ted Bechtol, the U.S. Capitol Superintendent of Grounds, worked with the Chugach National Forest to select the specific tree. Criteria included the shape and fullness of the tree, accessibility, height, species and needle retention.

Tree symbolizes how the Alaska landscape both sustains and inspires

U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Beth Pendleton said the tree “encompasses the best of the Last Frontier with all of its rich natural resources and rich culture. It’s representative of the boundless opportunities here.”

She said the tree “is very much about a sense of place…it’s about the connection of people to their natural resources for livelihood but also for spiritual and cultural inspiration.” 

Terri Marceron, the forest supervisor for the Chugach National Forest, couldn’t agree more. 

Marceron – who has worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 28 years – said she was blown away by the level of engagement so far with this year’s celebration and acknowledged that the Forest Service had an opportunity to engage with groups it never would have had a chance to engage with otherwise – so many people want to be a part of the celebration.

“We started with a strand of a web and every day there are new webs and strands being connected. We didn’t know what the web would look like, but it turned out more beautiful than we ever could have imagined.”

-Terri Marceron, Forest Supervisor - Chugach National Forest
Truck carrying trees

Transportation partners tackle complex logistics on land and at sea

Paul Grimaldi, the president of Lynden Transport, said the company was honored to provide the driver for the truck transporting the tree from Seward to Anchorage and then from the Seattle area to Washington, D.C. 

“The tree was in good hands with Lynden Transport driver John Schank behind the wheel."

-Paul Grimaldi, President - Lynden Transport

Schank was recognized as the Alaska Trucking Association’s Driver of the Year for 2014 and was commended by the governor of Alaska for logging 5 million miles accident-free on Alaska’s treacherous Dalton Highway during his 38-year driving career. 

Totem Ocean Trailer Express used an 839-foot long ship to transport the tree from the Port of Anchorage to the Port of Tacoma in Washington. The three day trip spanned 1,560 miles. It’s the first time Totem has transported a Christmas tree of this size on one of its vessels, and Bill Crawford, Totem’s vice president of sales and marketing, said the company viewed the tree as a very precious piece of cargo. 

A variety of additional sponsors – including Shell – provided key support in ensuring the tree made it to Washington, D.C. healthy and safely. Other sponsors include Kenworth, who provided the truck, Hale Trailer who provided the trailer for the truck’s journey, and Berg Companies who supplied a 60-gallon bladder that provided the roughly 40 gallons of water the tree consumed each day.

Transportation parents tackle complex logistics

Choose Outdoors brings the event to life 

Choose Outdoors, an organization that connects Americans with public lands through outdoor recreation, first became involved with the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree celebration in 2012 as the lead nonprofit partner. 

Since then, Bruce Ward, the founder and president of Choose Outdoors, has served as the point person for the U.S. Capitol Tree celebration for all but one year. He worked around-the-clock to engage more than 40 partners and sponsors for this year’s event. 

“The national tree is such a unifier. Along the journey, it spreads a message of goodwill and hope that things will improve for everyone – of all backgrounds and beliefs.”

-Bruce Ward, Founder & President - Choose Outdoors

He went on to say, “In a world that often seems somewhat devoid of genuine connection, bringing a national symbol to our capital city after sharing it with so many Americans is refreshing and inspiring. This tree is about so much more than a trucking expedition – it’s an opportunity to bring our country together.”

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