Governor Inslee orders Cal Anderson tree memorial restored

By: - August 23, 2023 5:35 pm

A tree planted next to Washington State Capitol in memory of Cal Anderson, the first openly gay member of the Washington state Legislature, was chopped down in August 2023. It was one of several removed because they were dying. (Jerry Cornfield/ Washington State Standard)

Gov. Jay Inslee wants the memorial to trailblazing lawmaker Cal Anderson restored on the Capitol Campus this week.

The governor on Wednesday ordered the Department of Enterprise Services to “immediately replant a tree along Cherry Lane and ensure the continued care of the memorial site,” Jaime Smith, Inslee’s executive director of communications, wrote in an email. 

Earlier this month, Enterprise Services removed several dying Kwanzan cherry trees on the stretch of road that runs alongside the Capitol, including the one planted to honor Anderson. 

Enterprise Services plans to plant a 16-foot Kwanzan flowering cherry tree and reinstall the memorial plaque on Friday.

Anderson, Washington’s first openly gay lawmaker and a champion for gay rights, served in the Legislature from 1987 until his death in 1995. Inslee served with Anderson in the state House and the two were friends.

Agency officials failed to tell lawmakers and others who knew or worked with Anderson before they felled the tree. The sight of a stump next to the plaque stunned and angered legislative leaders.

The replacement cherry tree won’t be there too long as the street’s landscaping will be removed when the road is torn up in around four years.

Enterprise Services officials will be working to find a new location for a replacement memorial tree and updated plaque. They will consult with the Capitol Campus Design Advisory Committee, State Capitol Committee, elected officials with whom Anderson served, the Legislature’s LGBTQ caucus and the Washington State LGTBQ Commission.

Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, on Tuesday called the memorial site removal “a desecration.” On Wednesday, he said, “it’s the right path forward. I’m glad they’re doing it.”


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Jerry Cornfield
Jerry Cornfield

Jerry Cornfield joined the Standard after 20 years covering Olympia statehouse news for The Everett Herald. Earlier in his career, he worked for daily and weekly papers in Santa Barbara, California.