Foresting a Treeless Town

"Nome National Forest" sign stands on sea ice with scattered trees and painted decorations behind.

Every year, after Christmas, the “Nome National Forest” grows out of the sea ice off Nome’s shore.

Cut Christmas trees shipped from the Lower 48 are sold as a fundraiser for the local cancer patient support group. (Some folks prefer the local tradition of cutting a willow bush and watching it bloom after being placed in water and exposed to warm indoor air.)

After the season, the trees are collected to “take root” off the coast. (On a sub-zero day, the trees are placed in augured holes, which are filled in with water, sturdily freezing the tree into place.) The forest is then populated with wood cut-outs of friendly animals. For the next few months, the “Nome National Forest” delights onlookers.

In springtime, the trees are “uprooted” and used to create fish spawning habitat in the local rivers, squeezing yet another purpose from the resource.

Image at top: Just off Nome’s coast, the “Nome National Forest” repurposes Christmas trees, alongside painted decorations, to colorfully ornament the rough terrain of the sea ice. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.

1 Comment

  1. Les Brown on December 4, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    The Nome National Forest tradition was started by the late Bob and Connie Madden who, for decades, ran “Fat Freddie’s” restaurant on the edge of Norton Sound – overlooking the “forest”. Connie was also benefactor of another Nome Christmas tradition which everybody saw but only a few knew who was providing for the cost of it. It was Connie’s wish that her part in it be kept secret – so I won’t identify it while perhaps giving credit for her generosity. Thank You Connie!