By Shelli Romero
March 20 marked the fifth in a series of community tree plantings along the I-205 Multi-Use Path. It also marked another milestone: the 249th tree planting at which Conan Harmon-Walker volunteered.
Born and reared in Oregon, Harmon-Walker is a network administrator for Legacy Health Systems and a 14-year volunteer with Friends of Trees. He participates in an abundance of Friends of Trees’ Neighborhood Trees (NT) and Green Space Initiative (GSI) plantings, setting milestone goals as part of his personal commitment to contribute to the community.
“I was an earth science major in the seventies and studied global warming,” he explained. “Planting trees is something I can do that’s local and meaningful.”
On this particular Saturday, beneath the warm rays of the sun at Southeast 95th and Hawthorne in the Montavilla neighborhood, Harmon-Walker helped sign in volunteers and assisted with tree plantings throughout the morning.
Harmon-Walker is a trained Friends of Trees crew leader who has guided hundreds of volunteers throughout the years. The March 20 planting was part of a three-year partnership among Friends of Trees, ODOT and Metro to plant thousands of trees and shrubs along the path, which is used extensively by bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users.
“Improvements to the Multi-Use Path are important; and adding trees and shrubs is a wonderful follow-on improvement as it will help shield the community from I-205 and thousands of cars that go by,” Harmon-Walker said.
In addition to enhancing the path for bordering neighborhoods, the plantings will reduce air pollution, minimize storm-water runoff into streams and rivers, and provide habitat for wildlife.
When complete, ODOT will showcase the project as a statewide model for considering the greening of other transportation corridors.
“This project will improve air quality and livability for this area at the very least, and I would like to encourage more people to get involved and let our policy makers know that this project is important to the community,” said Harmon-Walker.
The next weekend marked Harmon-Walker’s 250th planting with Friends of Trees, equating to about 14,000 trees and shrubs in the ground.
In recognition of his amazing achievement, Friends of Trees planted a grove of trees in his honor at their biannual Gift Trees planting on March 28.
“I planted trees with my father when I was a boy, and my teenage sons have planted with me since they were boys,” explained Harmon-Walker. “It’s the best way we know to leave a legacy.”
Romero is public policy and community affairs manager, ODOT-Region I