MLK Day Planting Events Bring Communities Together

Volunteers gather at Andrea Ortiz Park in Eugene.

On February 17, Friends of Trees honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with six different planting events. Understanding how issues of environmentalism and equity intersect in today’s world is crucial to our work. Making sure that everyone has access to the benefits of trees is why we plant, and MLK Day events are always inspiring.

On Saturday, we had events in Vancouver, Beaverton, Bethany and Salem, and volunteers came out with eagerness and generosity. “Without all of you, we’re just a pile of trees in a parking lot,” Ian Bonham, Senior Neighborhood Trees Specialist, told volunteers in Vancouver.

On MLK Day itself, our Eugene Branch facilitated two particularly special events. In the morning, the City of Eugene dedicated a park in the Bethel-Danebo neighborhood as Andrea Ortiz Park, in honor of the two-term councilor and first Latina on the Eugene City Council. Councilor Ortiz passed away in 2017, and is remembered for her passionate investment in her community.

Volunteers, city staff, and community members gathered in the park as Ortiz’s family planted a magnolia tree dedicated to her. In honor of both Ortiz and King, volunteers planted 60 more trees where the park is expanding and 11 trees in the surrounding neighborhood. “What better way to honor that legacy than to do a memorial planting for our own beloved community member, Andrea Ortiz, for all of the work she did,” said Mayor Lucy Vinis.

Speakers at the dedication of the Andrea Ortiz Park

In the afternoon, Friends of Trees partnered with the NAACP Eugene-Springfield and Willamalane Parks and Recreation to plant trees in five different parks in Springfield. The NAACP organized the event as part of their tree equity project. After opening remarks from Springfield City Councilor Steve Moe, volunteers planted 18 trees and participated in other park beautification projects like weeding, mulching, and tree care work at a past project location.

“It was a beautiful day to plant trees as a community,” says Eugene Director Erik Burke. “We are so grateful to the volunteers in the west Eugene and Springfield neighborhoods for bringing such spirit to the day. We’ve been doing these MLK Day collaborations for years, and we always look forward to it.”