At the entrance of this spacious city park, there stands an historical marker in memory of the “Spruce Soldiers” of World War 1. During the war, aircraft production was vital to the war effort. Early planes were constructed of linen over a wood framework. Because of its lightweight flexibility and strength, Sitka spruce was the wood of choice.
This western tree thrives in the fog belt of the Pacific Coast from Northern California to Kodiak, Alaska. Only Oregon and Washington, however, provide trees of sufficient size and abundance for the production of aero-lumber. During the early 1900s, the average spruce tree in this region exceeded 4 feet in diameter and 160 feet in height. Within the first six months of the war, the Spruce Products Division was organized under the command of Brigadier General B.P. Disque to increase lumber production. General Disque recruited 27,661 enlisted men and 1222 officers from the United States Army and after group muster at Fort Vancouver, Washington, “spruce soldiers” joined civilians to work for private companies in logging camps and sawmills.
In 1918, the Sitka Spruce Company operated a sawmill on the site of Sturdivant Park with soldiers of the 103rd Spruce Squadron. A two-story barracks on these grounds was occupied by 52 enlisted men and 2 officers who worked around the clock to fill a government order for 1,000,000 board feet of aero-lumber. The war ended on 11 November 1918, and the Spruce Products Division quietly disbanded. In less than two years, the Spruce Soldiers had increased lumber production by 300%, as nearly 10,000,000 board feet left the Pacific Northwest each month.
Today, Sturdivant Park is a popular spot for class reunions, the community-wide City Garage Sale in August, picnics, camping, RV parking, fishing and other forms of recreation. A boat ramp offers easy access to the Coquille River and ducks and other seagulls can be seen along the banks. It’s a great place to stop on a hot afternoon, within walking distance of downtown Coquille.