Grey or green: which do you prefer?
Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services chose “green” four years ago when it launched the Grey to Green Initiative, a commitment to invest in green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff and pollution in Portland’s rivers.
About ten years ago, Matt and his wife Phoebe, both University of Wisconsin graduates, loaded up a van and headed from Madison, Wisconsin, to Portland, Oregon. They had no jobs or home in mind. They just liked the city, which Matt had learned about at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture.
It didn’t take long for them to find work. Matt quickly joined a local landscape design company, where he worked for five years before joining Grey to Green.
“We have a really strong team, including a good veteran team,” Matt said about the Grey to Green staff at Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services. He noted that his role is “keeping things going smoothly behind the scenes” along with building partnerships and managing contractor tree plantings.
During the summer Matt hosts “grill outs” so that outreach staff and Friends of Trees staff can get together in a relaxed setting outside of work. With such a large team and different schedules, it’s not often everyone gets together in one place.
In addition to getting people to sign up for trees from Friends of Trees, the summer canvassers educate people about trees and collect street tree data.
This summer BES has ten new summer canvassers and five veteran outreach staffers who do inspections and help manage the summer canvassers. Each canvasser heads out to homes equipped with Grey to Green fliers, a clipboard, rain-resistant paper, an orange vest with the BES and FOT logos embroidered on it, a city ID badge, a tape measure, and a knowledge of how to ”pace,” or estimate by strides the distances between potential tree locations.
In addition to partnering with Portland Public Schools and Portland Bureau of Transportation on tree-planting projects, Matt is excited to assist in plantings in commercial, industrial and other public areas, such as the North Lombard corridor and plantings at businesses in the Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID). He’s also pleased with the plantings along the interstates, in the “clover leafs.”
It feels good “to see that impact” and to have contributed from concept to idea to planning to planting, he said. “Grey to Green presents an opportunity for the city to link to these communities through trees,” Matt said. “In a way, we’re ambassadors of the city.”
When he isn’t digging holes and planting trees—or overseeing the team of canvassers helping homeowners order trees—Matt plays kickball and dodgeball. He’s on two kickball teams: the Fat Cobras and The Independents, a group of players who moved to Portland—“free agents thrown together.” He also plays on two dodgeball teams: The Independents and Sconnie Style (“Sconnie” is short for “Wisconsinite”).
In addition, Matt is a Friends of Trees crew leader and was a neighborhood coordinator. He keeps his eyes on the neighborhood trees and does “guerrilla watering” when needed.
In his spare time, Matt participates in Mazamas hiking adventures, gaining experience climbing mountains around the Northwest. He describes himself as someone who likes to push his limits but who’s “cautious and safe.”
Every year Matt takes people up Mt. St. Helens who haven’t climbed before to try to inspire them. It’s a “fairly easy, non-technical” climb to a two-mile wide crater, he says. And there’s an amazing view.
In the same way that Matt brings people together to experience mountain climbing, he connects different city, district and state departments in a common goal of planting more trees. A bridge-builder among tree planters … what could bring more green to a city?