Planting trees on the Kesey Family Farm

The Eugene Branch: news from Friends of Trees Eugene

Planting trees on private property is a regular part of the program at Friends of Trees Eugene. Almost every planting event includes yard trees, with about 20% of all FOT Eugene trees planted on private property, and increasing every year.

We recently had the pleasure of being a part of a private property planting event at the Kesey Farm just outside of Eugene (yes, that Kesey: Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and more!). The Keseys contacted us because in addition tree advice and help with planting, they wanted to involve Friends of Trees because they really like the community involvement part of how we plant trees.

The Eugene Tree Team worked with the Keseys on where to plant the trees and on species selection. The family really wanted some redwoods, so we planted those along with some more drought tolerant giant sequoias. All told, community volunteers and the Keseys planted 30 trees, including giant sequoias, redwoods, Lavelle hawthorns, and silver lindens. (DYK? silver lindens are perhaps the best trees for native bumble bees!)

This was an all-around great planting event: It was a beautiful sunny day at a beautiful site, everyone was happy to be there, and the Keseys not only helped plant but were great hosts, sharing treats with the volunteers. We even met some cows and learned what a “bummer calf” is (a days-old calf that can’t feed from its mom).

Private property planting events in Eugene are fully funded by the property owners, as in this case, and sometimes with private donations if cost is an issue. Do you have some private property that needs trees? In some cases FOTE can play a role, advising on tree selection, site planning, and through involving community volunteers for a tree planting event. We’d love to talk with you about your tree needs!

Trees at the Bybee Lakes Hope Center

Trees are on the path to recovery and reentry at the Bybee Lakes Hope Center

For 16 years a giant empty building sat on a large, barren site in North Portland. Today, what was intended to be the Wapato Jail is now a place of recovery and hope, surrounded by new trees and a new Victory garden.

The Bybee Lakes Hope Center, run by Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Centers, serves people who are experiencing homelessness. Friends of Trees played a part in helping establish green infrastructure at the site and now BLHC residents, staff and volunteers have access to what is essentially a mini-arboretum, where a wide variety of trees will do what trees do best: clean the air, provide oxygen, shade, and habitat for bees and birds, while also helping to ease stress and contributing to other positive health outcomes for the folks who live there.

Reading about how BLHC redefined space inspired Friends of Trees Deputy Director Whitney Dorer to take a deeper look. Whitney shares, “I loved that a place intended to incarcerate became a place of healing and renewal, but I was struck by the lack of vegetation, there wasn’t anything green surrounding the building. I thought  about someone staying in that building and wanting to go outside, and that there was no shade, no outdoor respite. I thought Friends of Trees could play a role.” So Whitney reached out to HHROC with a tree planting proposal.

Whitney met with Raven Russell, Director of Data & Major Projects for HHROC and the project grew. VetREST Oregon, which serves veterans, joined as a partner to create a Victory Garden where residents can grow their own food. Partners and residents were joined by landscape designer Tracy Ceravolo who donated her time to help design the site and choose trees. More than 20 different species are planted at the site, including red alder, American beech, dawn redwood, incense cedar, doug fir, fig and other fruit trees, magnolia, scarlet oak, Oregon white oak, giant sequoia … and more!

Friends of Trees Senior Neighborhood Trees Specialist Andrew Land helped with the tree side of things, “It was like designing an arboretum! It’s a huge variety  of trees, chosen for drought tolerance, disease and pest resistance, and also chosen with an eye toward having a variety of leaves, flowers and forms.”

HHROC Development Director Mike Davis applauds the partnership,

“The partnership between our organizations has been great as we’ve worked to build out our therapeutic Victory Garden. Having Whitney and Drew guiding us on the types of trees as well as their care has been invaluable and will ensure that our trees grow and thrive. Without Friends of Trees and their volunteer army, we couldn’t have planted 150 trees in 1 day.”

Tree care shouldn’t be a problem at this site because residents and community volunteers are available. A recent visit to check on the trees after an unseasonable warm spell demonstrated that the BLHC community has done an excellent job—the trees are well-watered and thriving!

Bybee Lakes Hope Center in and of itself is an amazing place, providing much-needed services to people in our community who are experiencing houselessness. And thanks to a special partnership, the blank slate of the site is getting green and actively contributing to people’s restoration and healing.

We plant yard trees, too!

Get to Know our private property plantings

Street trees planted by Friends of Trees are pretty recognizable—some may say iconic, even. Street trees are the trees planted near the street, identifiable by the Friends of Trees tree tag with information about the species and tree care. But street trees are only part of the picture.

Yes, we’re also restoring natural areas through planting native trees and shrubs, but there’s another aspect to our tree planting that also provides oxygen, fights climate change, and brings people together: it’s planting trees on private property.

Friends of Trees increasingly plants more trees on private property, which is any planting site that is not owned by a municipality or is not a public right-away (such as the planting strip). These locations range in size and flavor, including a large site like the Bybee Lakes Hope Center described in the story above, a private backyard (the most common), the grounds of an apartment complex, at a business … anywhere a tree can fit and live (remember, right tree, right place!).

In a typical season we plant 1,000 yard or other private property trees, and it’s a part of our planting program we’re actively growing. In many ways, planting trees on private property allows for more options and flexibility, especially in yards where there is more choice in tree type because there is often room for larger trees. Neighborhood Trees Program Manger Erica Timm explains,

“I always wanted an Oregon white oak at my home, but I couldn’t plant one as a street tree because they are just too big for my planting strip, so I planted one in my backyard. And because there’s more room in my backyard I was able to plant more native trees and now, combined with my neighbor’s trees, we have a little grove of native trees right outside our back doors. All these trees provide habitat, they capture stormwater, trap pollutants … it’s all the benefits of street trees multiplied many times over since there is space for so many more trees.”

Friends of Trees has been very successful in growing our urban canopy through planting street trees, and offering yard trees is a natural continuation of greening our neighborhoods. We’ll plant street trees as much as we can, but the public right-of-way, such as the planting strip, is a busy space, with sidewalks, utilities (both above-ground and below), etc., and there is more competition for space, so more yard trees is definitely part of our future.

Just like planting street trees, when a tree recipient is interested in a yard or other private property tree we spend a lot of time helping select the right tree for the right place, hole digging, utility locates (know before you dig), and we provide tree care information such as watering reminders. So before you head out to your local home improvement store for your backyard tree, check with Friends of Trees, because in addition to planting a tree, you’ll get expert help and advice, and you’ll grow some community, too.

Photo: A happy yard tree recipient in NE Portland, March 2021.