Growth Rings

Restoring a Gem of the Columbia Slough

Posted on February 9, 2015 at 1:10 pm

By Dave Adamschick
Friends of Trees Communications Specialist

Friends of Trees: Columbia Children's Arboretum

Volunteers—including high school students and Port of Portland employees— gather to plant last month at the Columbia Children’s Arboretum.
Photo: Dave Adamschick

Nearly a century ago, 28+ acres tucked near the Columbia Slough caught the eye of John Charles Olmsted, the son of Central Park architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The younger Olmsted’s work is known to NWers through his designs of Washington’s Capitol grounds in Olympia, Portland’s Washington Park and his master plan for the Lewis and Clark Exposition. In the land that would eventually become the Columbia Children’s Arboretum he saw “great stretches of meadow land bordered and diversified by groves of trees. No other form of park has ever proved so attractive and so useful to the masses of the people…” Despite the promise that Olmsted saw, the land bounced between owners for almost a century.

Eventually, the land came under the purview of Portland Parks & Recreation. For the last dozen years, a coalition of homeowners, city departments, and volunteers have joined together to restore the space to its full potential.

Friends of Trees: Columbia Children's Arboretum

Tucked next to the Columbia Slough, the Arboretum is one of the few green spaces in the East Columbia Neighborhood.
Photo: Dave Adamschick

“We rely heavily on our partners and volunteers,” says Portland Parks and Recreation’s Stewardship Coordinator Marissa Aurora Dorais. She is tasked with parks along the Willamette and Columbia Slough. “We’re really fortunate to have strong partnerships with groups like Friends of Trees, POIC and Rosemary Anderson High School on this project.”

On January 31, Friends of Trees and POIC organized about 75 volunteers to plant another 300 native trees and shrubs at the Arboretum. The event is one of seven sponsored by the Port of Portland this year. Port staff also added their own muscle to the volunteer effort, including Natural Resources Specialist Maureen Minister. Asked why should would get up early on a cold winter morning to get muddy and wet, she said, “I really enjoy the natural area plantings. We get people to come out to a new space, one they might not have visited on their own and when they return they feel ownership of the space through their work.”

Our partners’ and volunteers’ long-term commitment to projects like native restoration of the Columbia Children’s Arboretum enables FoT to harness the power of the community to plant trees together. It’s these partnerships that help all of us build a greener Northwest.


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