The Eugene Branch Walks the Talk in their own Backyard

A year ago, if you were to look out the back window of the Friends of Trees office in Eugene, you might look past the small backyard and see nearly a block of impermeable surfaces, power lines, parking lots and buildings. But our staff saw an opportunity, and went about converting their backyard into an oasis of nature.

“We had left our mark at our last office,” says Eugene Director Erik Burke. There, they partnered with City of Eugene on a Trees for Concrete project, removing concrete and planting eight trees along the busy street outside the old office—two Oregon white oaks, two California black oaks (see this month’s Leaflet for why Oaks are such an awesome choice), three Persian ironwoods, and a Chinese pistache, as well as valley pine and bigleaf maples on the east side of the building.

After moving one block south to a new office, they were compelled to do something similar. “It’s the only unpaved patch in a sea of concrete,” says Erik. “We wanted to make the most of it.”

“We try to walk the talk,” says Volunteer & Program Specialist Taylor Glass. So they pulled away all the grass and weeds, put down cardboard and mulch, and put in a variety of native, drought tolerant, and pollinator friendly plants: 2 Oregon white oaks, red flowering currant, Douglas’ aster, camas, showy milkweed, manzanita, and nootka rose (and some volunteer California poppies have made the backyard their home too!).

“Douglas aster is one of the best plants for pollinators due to its really long bloom time,” Taylor says. “Last year the asters in our backyard continued blooming into October!”

“We wanted all the plants to be climate resilient and drought tolerant,” Erik Says. “After a few years of getting the plants established, we hope to never have to water, no matter what climate change throws at us.”

It’s all about making an impact and leaving a legacy in their community. They are benefiting from that legacy already. In front of the office are bigleaf maples that were planted 14 years ago as part of another Trees For Concrete program, back when FOT Eugene was still the Eugene Tree Foundation. “We planted them many years ago, not knowing that we would end up getting to enjoy them outside our office,” Erik says.

Now the office’s backyard has grown into a beautiful native plant garden, attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and bees, and giving our staff a daily dose of inspiration.


Friends of Trees to the Rescue!

Rescuing native plants along the new Salmonberry Trail project

Usually Friends of Trees volunteers are tasked with planting trees, but last weekend in Banks, they got to rescue them! Volunteers worked on a stretch of railway, part of a route once home to the Pacific Railway and Navigation rail line, that will become the Salmonberry Trail in coming years.

Because the railway isn’t used anymore, native trees have sprouted among the tracks. Working along the scenic West Fork Dairy Creek, volunteers set about rescuing them by safely digging up knee-high bigleaf maple and Douglas-fir saplings, soaking them in water and storing them in bare-root bags. They used special de-rooter tools for the most obstinate trees.

“We’ve been out here for a couple years now, leading work parties,” says John Vogler of the Salmonberry Foundation to volunteers. “Next year, we will clear this whole section with big machines, so any trees that we can salvage is great. It’s a big task, and you’re part of the very beginning of this 86 mile trail to the coast.”

This rails-to-trails project will create a new 86-mile mixed-use path for walkers, runners and cyclists. The Salmonberry Trail will also connect to the existing Banks-Vernonia Trail to create a loop.

This event came to us thanks to our longtime partner Clean Water Services, whose Tree for All campaign has planted more than 14 million trees and shrubs in Washington County. They proposed this tree rescue event as a fun way to engage folks in the Banks community with our work. Rescuing plants isn’t typical for Friends of Trees, but the nature and scale of this specific project made it a good fit for volunteers.

With their hard work, volunteers rescued 375 bigleaf maples and 100 Douglas-firs from the tracks. They were safely stored by Clean Water Services in their cooler until they were planted elsewhere in the Tualatin River Watershed. The Doug-firs went to a Tualatin Soil & Water Conservation District project along East Fork Dairy Creek.  The maples were planted at the Penstemon Natural Area on the Tualatin River near Forest Grove, and at Rivers Bend Natural Area on the Tualatin River near the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.

Volunteers also cleared a quarter mile of future trail of invasive Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry and 100 pounds of trash.

Volunteers were excited to rescue about 100 more trees to plant at their own homes, including cherries and hazelnuts. “It was fun to come to a different event like this,” said Hannah, a volunteer. “And so great to take a native tree home to plant!”

Thanks to Clean Water Services, The Salmonberry Foundation, and Friends of Stub Stewart State Park & Banks-Vernonia Rails to Trails for partnering with us on this project.

Spring tree-care events in April and May

By Andy Meeks

Over 37,000 native trees and shrubs were planted by volunteers in our Green Space Initiative program this season at 45 different planting and restoration projects. To honor and protect all of that hard work, we’re ready for the next step:  ensuring the viability and survival of those trees.

The plentiful rain (and sun!) in western Oregon in the spring create prime growing conditions for all sorts of vegetation—and not necessarily the beneficial kind. Invasive species that grow quickly and out-compete native vegetation—think English ivy, Himalayan blackberry and clematis, for example—also have negative benefits for soil retention, biodiversity and water quality.

We have four tree care-events coming in April and May!

We’re organizing four tree-care events on the next four Saturday mornings at planting sites from this season to help the new trees and shrubs get a fair start against this competition. These are maintenance-oriented events focused on mulching, tubing and, if necessary, invasives removal.  We’ll not only teach you how to remove invasive plant species by hand, but we’ll also teach native plant identification skills and various care techniques.

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Make your mark on Forest Park this Saturday!

The bucket brigade at Forest Park last March (PGE)
The bucket brigade at Forest Park last March (PGE)

By Andy Meeks

Friends of Trees–and up to 50 lucky people–will return to Forest Park this Saturday, March 12, to plant approximately 400 native plants and shrubs along Saltzman Road in Forest Park. We are planting in the utility right-of-way, which is why we are planting shrubs and not trees. This planting will provide habitat in an area that is now essentially clear cut.

We still need volunteers for this weekend. About 25 spots still remain! You can pre-register for this event by following this link and filling out the form:

The planting is now full as of Friday, 3/11/11 – 4:15pm

Please note that this is a ‘hike-in’ site and the planting area is approximately three-fourths of a mile from the parking area (NW St Helens & Saltzman, Portland, Oregon (map)). You may park along Saltzman or in the parking lot of the neighboring Anderson Roofing Company.

This planting is generously sponsored by REI and presented in partnership with Portland Parks & Recreation and the Forest Park Conservancy. Friends of Trees will provide morning refreshments, gloves, tools, and all necessary guidance. Please wear sturdy shoes and dress for the weather.

You can contact Andy or Andrew in the Volunteer & Outreach Program for more information. We hope to see you out there on Saturday to make your mark on Forest Park!

–Meeks is Volunteer & Outreach Manager for Friends of Trees.