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‘Smoking tree’ the target of May 8 community discussion

— An unofficial landmark in town often referred to as the “smoking tree” will be a topic of community discussion on Wednesday, May 8.

YOUTHTHINK, a nonprofit organization encouraging teenagers to make healthy choices, is hoping to hear ideas from community members about the tree on Union Street near The Dalles Wahtonka High School where students often go to smoke.

“The smoking tree is nothing new. It’s been around for generations,” said YOUTHTHINK coordinator Debby Jones. “I can’t tell you we’ve done a secret sting as far as saying there are more kids there or anything like that, but for whatever reason talk about it has reached a higher level.”

She said she has taken calls and comments from people asking if there is anything she can do about the tree. The board doesn’t feel it has the authority to do much about it, and it’s “not really in our mission statement,” but Jones said they decided they could at least facilitate a community discussion if that is what people are interested in.

Jones said law enforcement, the juvenile department and school officials have promised to be there. Some neighbors have expressed interest as well, and some students have told Jones they don’t want the negative behaviors of some students at the smoking tree to be what the community thinks of when they think of the high school.

“That’s not how they want to be represented,” she said.

She said the tree represents problems with the health of the students smoking, with the safety of the students hanging out in the street where they can be hit by a car, with truancy and with littering.

The discussion is scheduled to take place at 5:10 p.m. May 8 at The Dalles Middle School library during YOUTHTHINK’s regular monthly meeting, which begins at 4:30 p.m.


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