Growth Rings

Interns and Mission Statements

Posted on July 28, 2015 at 9:56 am

The confusion kicked in after about ten minutes of hiking Forest Park’s Wildwood Trail. I had taken the MAX, a short bike ride, and suddenly I was out of the identity-stripping hustle and bustle of city life and into a place that had startling similarities to a beautiful, remote nature preserve. To call this ‘a change of scenery’ would be as dramatic of an understatement as I could imagine. I walked down the trail, my thoughts slowed, and I began to notice my surroundings. A calm came over me that I rarely experience living in downtown Portland. On some level, I felt that by entering Forest Park, a place I had never been before, I had come home.

My fingers felt the softness of the thimbleberry leaf, my ears echoed with the woodpecker’s knocking, and my vision bounced from tree to tree, marveling at their height and a sense of wisdom they seem to imbue. But on another more unexpected, and perhaps more profound level, I noticed a connection with my fellow humans that I saw on the trail. We only had one point of commonality; the fact we both traveled through the forest. Regardless, every encounter included some sort of greeting. At the very least a head nod was exchanged, but sometimes, full conversations were sparked. How could this be? These people were strangers, and in a matter of seconds, some had become friends. Did the trees really help bring us together?

Jack, taking it all in at Rocky Mountain National Park

Jack, taking it all in at Rocky Mountain National Park

Before I came to intern at Friends of Trees, I looked up their mission statement: it goes as follows, “Friends of Trees is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit whose mission is to bring people together to plant and care for city trees and green spaces in Pacific Northwest communities.” After I read this, I honestly didn’t have much idea of what it meant. Even after working for two weeks at FOT, it still wasn’t clear. Looking back, I think that at the heart of my misunderstanding was a doubt. I didn’t really believe in the power of trees. But in my defense, mission statements and interns operate on very different time scales. One is permanent and long term while the other is, by definition, transient.

So, I offer this post as a means to help subsequent Duke Engage Interns and first time volunteers at FOT connect with the larger FOT mission. My advice is to not solely read the mission statement- visit it- because at Forest Park, it is manifested in a way that just can’t be ignored. More plainly, before you doubt the ability of the natural world to strengthen individual and community ties, take a trip to Forest Park, or any wild place for that matter, and stay awhile. Make an effort to open yourself to fellow runners and hikers and watch how the forest, nature’s community, destroys the false boundaries society creates and accentuates our deepest and most basic human qualities- the same qualities that Friends of Trees brings to Northwest neighborhoods.

-Jack Gavigan is the Duke Engage Intern with Friends of Trees


Better Living Through Trees

Posted on July 16, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Visitors, In-laws, new residents – One of the first things you’ll hear newcomers to Portland talk about is how green our city is. It’s the trees (and maybe, just a little, the rain).

As Portland continues to become a destination to live, work and visit, we’re going to struggle to add density and continue to keep the things that make our city an appealing location to so many people.

Friends of Trees is currently partnering with a coalition of neighbors in the Eastmoreland neighborhood to save three giant sequoias, each over a 100 years old. Earlier this year, Steve Melkerson of Caliber Homes, reworked his plans on a multi-family project in the Hawthorne district to preserve a unique paradox walnut tree.

Outside the zero-sum thinking that pits trees against density, we need to think how to build for Trees AND Development.

Eli Spevak of Orange Splot, builds new communities with trees in mind. Learn more about Eli’s work and new ways to add density without sacrificing quality of life on his website. Discover how Orange Splot builds communities with trees in mind in the video below.

Tree Match Makers

Posted on July 8, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Here at Friends of Trees world headquarters, we’re in the business of helping homeowners find their perfect tree match for their space (among other things). We do this through a combination of carefully cultivated tree lists (right tree, right place, y’all) and our superhero Tree Callers who volunteer weekly to call interested homeowners and help them choose their perfect tree.

Our planting successes are due in no small part to Tree Callers who made over 1,800 calls to future tree owners last season, inspiring hundreds of additional trees to be planted. Holy cow, 1,800 calls! The goal of our Tree Caller Team is to connect with homeowners over the phone and guide them to make their ideal tree selection through our online system.

A future Tree Caller in training!

We are currently recruiting new Tree Caller volunteers to join our calling team! If you are an A+, #1 customer service rep (or hope to be!), never met a phone you didn’t like, are known to be capable of navigating our online databases, and have a genuine interest in being a force for trees and their benefits, please consider joining us as a Tree Caller.

{Obvious pun alert} As a Tree Caller, you  ‘plant the seed’ for trees and healthy communities! We meet weekly on Wednesday evenings from July – March. Get in touch with Randi today in the Volunteer & Outreach Program to learn more about this role, sign up to be trained in this role, or to simply have a fun chat about trees or other popular topics, like bikes or pizza. Just waiting for you to get in touch!

Randi Orth is the Volunteer & Outreach Specialist

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Tree Forte

Posted on June 25, 2015 at 10:17 am

Treehouses are awesome. Up off the ground, surrounded by shade, away from everything a child wants to avoid – siblings, bullies, parents and all earthbound responsibilities. For some of those reasons, treehouses are pretty awesome for adults too and the last few years treehouses have elevated (sorry) their game. No longer scrap 2 x 4’s and some salvaged plywood devoid of handrails, treehouses have taken a turn towards the fanciful. Nationally, people can watch, or at least those with basic cable can watch complete tree makeovers on Treehouse Masters. In the NW, women and men can get away and into the trees by booking treehouse vacations.

Plum Tree House 010 (Large)

Locally, there are carpenters dedicated to tree-centric building. Schuyler Silva of Elevated Living helps Portlanders live out their dream of having a cool place to spend time in the trees. How does someone whose expertise is in technical theater, specifically, set building, end up specializing in designing and constructing treehouses? The answer, “I have yet to meet anyone who frowns at the mention of a treehouse. They are fun, exotic, and encourage play in everyone. It is primal to climb up into a tree, explore, and learn.”

Schuyler was kind enough to share his wisdom of tree carpentry with us: The most important aspect of treehouses: “Safety is #1. The tree is a close #2. It is your foundation. If you don’t treat it right, it can die and/or even rip your treehouse apart. Treat it with respect. The next word of advice is that it is more expensive than you think. There is specialty hardware, specialty tools, equipment, and materials. Many people remember the days of their fathers building a treehouse on the weekend for next to nothing. For a structure that is safe and will last for 20+ years, it takes a bit more.”

Leland Hull, member of the crew at Barefoot Builders and volunteers with Friends of Trees as a Summer Inspector, concurs about the importance of tree selection, adding, “The tree is the foundation of the treehouse. When determining if a tree is a good candidate it is important to pick a species that has good structural integrity both in it’s roots and it’s canopy.  The health of the tree plays a big part on it’s ability to hold a treehouse safely so doing a thorough inspection is always essential.”

When you build enough treehouses, you eventually develop favorites, Schuyler likes a special conifer, “I’ve designed my Classic model to be easily installed on straight trunked trees, specifically the Douglas Fir. We have so many of these massive treasures here in the PNW, so I have designed a treehouse to match. I love the Doug Fir so much, my dog’s name is Doug Fur.”


Doug Fur the Dog – Dog Fur

Treehouses generally don’t need permitting in Portland, but tree-centric building comes with it’s own set of issues that could vex the best DIY carpenter, Schuyler adds, “Also, as this is what I do, I would suggest hiring a professional. There are so many considerations when building a treehouse. If anything, bring on a professional as a consultant.”


Leland Hull/Barefoot Builders

Plum Tree House 004 (Large)

Plum Project (Elevated Living)

Plum Tree House 017 (Large)

More Plum

2 (Large)

Doug Fir

3 (Large)

Elevated Living’s Doug Fir

DSCF9324 (Large)

Stumpin’ For ADU

DSCF9333 (Large)


Thanks to Elevated Living and Leland Hull. Check out Leland’s tumblr.

Plum Tree House 017 (Large)

More plum