Stretch of trees planted at Riverfront Park honors Salem stream lover

Cheryl Hummon’s legacy will stay — and grow — in Riverfront Park for years to come.

Last Wednesday, Dec. 14, friends, coworkers and city of Salem employees planted 100 trees to honor the longtime Oregon Department of Agriculture riparian and regional water quality specialist.

Hummon, who retires this week, rolled up her sleeves to dig alongside them. A resident of Southeast Salem, she plans to spend her retirement enjoying local parks.

As the riparian specialist for the state’s agricultural water quality program for eight years, Hummon worked with 45 soil and water conservation districts throughout the state to improve water quality. Riparian means relating to a riverbank, flood plain or wetland.

“Riparian restoration projects are probably the number one tool in the toolbox for improving agricultural water quality,” she said. Riparian vegetation provides shade to keep streams cool, filter pollutants and stabilize stream banks.

For the past two years, she has been the regional water quality specialist for the Willamette Basin and Mid and North Coast.

She said she’s enjoyed the challenges of the job, including making plans to address stream temperature and working to limit mercury levels in the Willamette River.

“I’m always up for a good challenge, and it was a good challenge to develop this new planning and reporting framework over the last year and a half,” Hummon said.

The 100 new trees on the Riverfront Park stretch from the Peter Courtney Bridge to the Willamette Queen boat dock. Hummon said she liked that it ended near the statue of former Oregon Gov. Tom McCall, who had a significant impact on protecting Oregon’s natural resources.

Oregon Department of Agriculture staff donated $1,000 for the mix of cascara, alder, Pacific crabapple, big leaf maple, and Willamette Valley ponderosa pine, according to city spokesman Trevor Smith.

Around 10 department  staff members planted the trees, including Hummon’s longtime co-worker, Beth Pietrzak, who organized the project. They were joined by city workers who partnered on the project.

“The City of Salem was happy to help honor the service of Cheryl Hummon as she retires from the agency,” Smith said in an email. “Congratulations Cheryl and thank you ODA for your service and contribution to Salem’s Riverfront Park.”

The honor came as a surprise to Hummon, who found out about a week beforehand when a supervisor clued her into the dress code: work boots.

“It was completely unexpected. A brilliant idea, perfectly suited to me. My coworkers just kind of invented and tailored this event just for me. That was really meaningful,” she said.

Hummon joined the group as they rolled up their sleeves and dug holes. She said it was the first time she’d been together with her coworkers since they started working remotely Covid. 

Hummon said a bald eagle watched their entire workday from a tree branch across the river.

“Anyone who participated will be able to go back and enjoy the fact that we planted the trees together and that they’ll grow over time and be an asset to the community as well,” she said.

For her part, Hummon said she’ll be going on more bike trips during her retirement. Not one to sit by while others do work, she’ll also be looking for some meaningful part-time projects.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.