What exactly is the Grey to Green Initiative?
Grey to Green is an eight-year commitment initiated in 2008 by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services to enhance green spaces, restore watershed connectivity, create ecoroofs and bioswales, and plant trees to clean our water. The greening projects reduce the need for more concrete (or grey) construction as a way to manage stormwater and keep our rivers clean.
Three years ago the city hired two people to implement the tree-planting part of the Grey to Green Initiative: Matt Krueger and Jennifer Karps. Watch this blog to learn more about Matt Krueger’s role in Grey to Green.
As the Grey to Green canopy coordinator, Jennifer manages a three-tiered effort that includes the following: 1) working with Friends of Trees to plant trees at community volunteer events; 2) having contractors plant trees that volunteers can’t plant, such as huge trees along the freeway and street trees where the city’s rights-of-way aren’t clearly defined; and 3) offering Treebates, deductions from stormwater bills for people who plant trees at their homes.
Including her current tenure with BES, Jennifer has ten years’ experience with Portland’s trees, first as a Portland Parks & Recreation elm tree monitor while completing her Master of Science in Geography at Portland State University, then as a botanic specialist with Portland Parks & Recreation, where she spearheaded an impressive study of Portland’s tree cover and its net value to the city, called “Portland’s Urban Forest Canopy.”
Jennifer also volunteers with Friends of Trees, leading weekend planting crews as a trained crew leader and checking on newly planted trees as a summer inspector.
As Grey to Green canopy coordinator, Jennifer gives frequent presentations to educate people about the value of Portland’s trees. She also worked with staff in other city bureaus on the Citywide Tree Project, which resulted in new regulations for Portland’s trees to be implemented next year. The regulations will be consolidated, comprehensive, and easier to understand and implement than the city’s tree regulations have been in the past.
Jennifer is a big-picture thinker. She hopes to see the Grey to Green Initiative build capacity so the city continues “in the tree planting business” for years to come.
She enthusiastically notes the initiative’s successes, from Friends of Trees’ stepping up to plant more trees through community plantings (including 4,100 street trees last planting season) to the success of offering free trees in neighborhoods with low tree cover and the city’s new Treebate program. “Treebates are very inexpensive administratively,” Jennifer said, “and they widen the scope of tree planting to a larger audience.”
In addition, through its work on the Grey to Green Initiative, the city has collected valuable information about areas that need more trees.
The Grey to Green Initiative has already led to the addition of 36,000 “substantial” trees in Portland, but Jennifer sees more work ahead: more trees to be planted in the coming years and more education about the value of city trees.
Educating people about city trees is especially important in Portland, where the maintenance of street trees is the responsibility of the person who owns the property adjacent to the right-of-way where the tree is planted.
Our street trees help everyone, and we’re all responsible for maintaining them, she points out. “Citizens need to recognize their civic duty” in caring for their community’s trees.
Watch this blog for more stories about the Grey to Green Initiative’s tree-planting work and for more information about the benefits of our city trees. You can also read about the value of Portland’s trees in this front-page story in the July 9, 2012 Oregonian.