By Elizabeth Elbel
Trees have a history of bringing people together—for example, large, prominent specimens known as trysting trees have historically been places for community gatherings and traditional meeting places. These are often unique trees of any species that have been chosen for their outstanding appearance or position in the community.
Friends of Trees continues to partner in its community building efforts, planting in over 85 neighborhoods in the Portland, Vancouver and Eugene-Springfield communities. The hub of our planting day activities—our staging sites—fill the role of the trysting trees by providing us with a meeting location in our communities. Staging sites are one of the most essential components to the success of every planting.
In order to facilitate the massive movement of trees and people on planting day, our program relies on the generosity and willingness of local landlords to let us use their large parking lots and cozy indoor spaces. Often a community-oriented group like a church, school or business will allow us to use their bathrooms, hallways and kitchens, and to occupy their parking lots for an entire Saturday. These are the community spaces that keep us warm and dry on cold planting days. The landlords and landladies open their doors all day to the people in their neighborhood who have bought trees and to the volunteers who help them plant the trees. In walking distance of many of the planting sites (and sometimes the recipients of trees themselves), these meeting spaces are located in the heart of their neighborhoods.
Some of our staging sites, such as St. Paul Lutheran in SE Portland, have partnered with us for many, many seasons—and the tree planting seems to be informally adopted as an annual event. However, as we grow and expand our tree planting efforts, we are developing new relationships with staging sites and discovering new meeting spaces in our community.
One of our newest and most unique staging sites for the Madison South and Rose City Park neighborhoods is the new Lumberyard Indoor Bike Park. Owner Will Heiberg first connected with the community through his neighborhood association, offering the space in the indoor bike park as a community meeting ground.
With its large parking lot, indoor space, and proximity to the Madison South community, the Lumberyard made an ideal staging site for Friends of Trees’ March 17 neighborhood planting. On planting day, Friends of Trees volunteers had an exciting sneak peak at the 60,000 sq. ft. facility filled with bike ramps, single track and jumps. The space offers year-round recreational space to bikers of all levels and abilities. If you’re interested in supporting this new community venture, check out its web site.
Friends of Trees is grateful to all of the staging sites during the 2011-12 planting season for so willingly opening their doors to foster creative community interaction and for providing Friends of Trees with a place outside of home and work where we can all gather and connect.
- Elbel is a Neighborhood Trees Specialist at Friends of Trees.