“It was an amazing day, perfect weather, awesome people and healthy trees! Couldn’t ask for a better planting day, truly.” Alex, volunteer tree planter (above photo taken at our Gresham planting event)
So far in our 2019-20 planting season we’ve planted more than 16,000 trees and native shrubs! Here are some highlights from some amazing days this season:
Neighborhood Trees Program: 820 trees planted
“It was wonderful to plant in our neighborhood! I look forward to checking up on all of our trees over the next few years.” -Neighborhood Trees volunteer planter
Green Space Program: 15,800 trees planted
“The team created a warm and welcoming environment. It was a lovely event that we truly enjoyed!” -Green Space planting volunteer
Some of the Why, Where, and What-Have-You of planting trees in the city with Friends of Trees
Since 1989 Friends of Trees has been growing our urban canopy through planting street and yard trees in neighborhoods. A LOT changes during 30 years of tree planting! We continually work with our city and county partners to ensure the right tree is planted in the right place, and since every location is different we are used to getting quite a few questions. Here are answers to some of the questions we get the most:
I want a smaller/larger tree for my planting strip but all the trees on this list are just too big/small, why can’t I get a smaller/larger street tree?
We work closely with our municipal partners and we can only plant trees that are on their approved street tree planting lists. One of the goals of our program, and the partners we work with, is to increase the urban canopy in order to maximize the benefits. In other words, the larger the tree, the more the urban canopy grows, which provides more benefits in terms of cooling in the heat of summer, providing oxygen, and cleaning our air and water. So when a planting site allows it we need to optimize the size of the tree planted, and consequently, maximize the benefits provided. We also want to make sure we aren’t planting trees that are too big, in order to protect existing urban infrastructure. So these same guidelines ensure we aren’t planting over-sized trees in spaces that are too small.
I want to plant a fruit tree in my planting strip and I know you have them, why aren’t they on my list of approved street trees?
Fruit trees are only approved for certain spaces, such as yards or planting strips that are six feet or larger and have overhead primary power lines (however, Vancouver and Clark County do not allow fruit trees to be planted as street trees at all). If you’d like a fruit tree for your yard in addition to your street tree, we offer a wide variety, including apple, pear, plum, fig, and persimmon.
I only want native trees for my street tree and you only have one native on this list, why don’t you plant more natives?
Right Tree Right Place! We love native trees, but many tend to get pretty big and just won’t work in some planting locations due to overhead power lines, if the strip isn’t wide enough, a nearby intersection, etc. We want to make sure your tree is the best tree for your planting spot! We also want to plant as diversely as possible toward a resilient urban forest. P.S. Want to plant some natives? Join one of our Green Space planting events–all natives, all the time.
I want a street tree, but will it break the sidewalk?
Again, Right Tree Right Place! The trees offered by Friends of Trees do not have aggressive root systems and are specially approved to minimize such conflicts. Proper watering also helps. Deep watering for the first three years after planting encourages tree roots to grow deeper in the soil, we recommend 15 gallons a week during the summer for the tree’s first three years, and as needed in the future when temperatures are extreme. Keep in mind that we cannot guarantee that the trees we offer will never buckle sidewalks, as they are living beings and situations vary. We do our best and encourage you to keep an eye on your tree.
I’m concerned that tree roots will damage the sewer pipe, doesn’t this happen?
A tree’s roots grow where the growing is easy, they are opportunistic and not invasive. They do not seek out water or sewer pipes unless the pipes are leaking. Further, 90% of tree roots are in the top 2-3 feet of soil, and most sewer lines are deeper than that. Your municipal tree inspectors take into account the location of your water meter and assigns the planting location within the guidelines of the water company.
Can you help me remove a tree so I can plant a new one with you?
We can’t help you with a tree removal, but you can re-plant with our program if the city allows you to remove your tree. If you want to remove trees in your yard, check with the city to see if there are laws affecting your tree. To remove a street tree, you need a permit. Contact your city’s urban forestry department directly for a removal inspection, a list of contact information for our municipal partners is here. It’s a good idea to request that the city mark “all approved locations.” If you want to re-plant with us after removal please include on your application that you are working with Friends of Trees. Visit our website for more information about tree removal and replacement.
The approved locations where the trees are going are strange, can you change the location?
Unfortunately we can’t change the location. All street tree locations are based on a city inspection, and there are many factors involved, including distance from underground utilities, overhead lights and power lines, utility poles, fire hydrants, intersections, and street signs. Planting in the spot chosen by the inspector will help ensure your street tree has the best shot at surviving–and thriving!
Doug Trotter is kind of famous around here.
His time planting with Friends of Trees predates most of our staff, and he’s planted literally thousands of trees around Portland as a volunteer crew leader. If you are lucky enough to have him lead your planting crew, ask him about one of his many skills—brewing beer, building neighborhood poetry boxes, and of course, caring for trees.
How’d you get into trees?
I was born in Illinois, and we also lived all around the Pacific Northwest. Everywhere we lived, my dad would plant trees. They kind of grew on me, and I turned that fascination into a lifelong love. I graduated from Oregon State in the 1970s in forest management. Later in life I became a certified arborist. Now I’m doing other things, but I’d say trees have been the focus of my life and still are.
When did you start volunteering with Friends of Trees?
I volunteered with a similar organization in Seattle, so when we moved down here in 1995, I called Friends of Trees and said I’d like to volunteer. There were fewer volunteers then. By my third or fourth planting, I had already become a crew leader. I thought, wow, I moved up fast!
How many trees have you planted?
I never kept a running tally but I can estimate the number is in the 2,000-3,000 area. Let’s just say it has been quite a few!
Sometimes I’ll drive around Portland and see trees I planted. They look a lot different now than when I planted them 15-20 years ago. There’s great satisfaction that they’ll be there long after me, still living and growing and giving back to the community.
What do you think would surprise people about plantings?
When neighbors come out for plantings, they get to talking. Maybe they lived side-by-side and never met before, and they make this connection through trees. That’s a gratifying thing for me, and I think for them too.
How has Friends of Trees changed in the years since you started volunteering?
They’ve become a fine-tuned well-oiled machine. My first time volunteering, we planted maybe 40 or 50 trees with a few crews. Now they plant 400 or 500 trees in a weekend. They also added the natural area teams (Green Space Initiative).
A tree is kind of a big deal because…
Because they’re a real wonder of life. They’re some of the largest organisms on earth, and some of the most beautiful organisms on earth. They’re living miracles to me.
Urban trees have a tough life. You often see street trees with damage from where vehicles have hit them, or where improper pruning has caused major limbs to fail as the tree grows. Or even worse, street trees that have been topped!
To address these issues, the volunteers behind our new Community Tree Care Team are out on our city streets pruning young trees and helping ensure our urban tree canopy grows strong.
In August 2013, 25 volunteers came together to launch Friends of Trees’ Community Tree Care Team. The volunteers were trained by our wonderful group of certified arborist partners in how to make correct cuts and structurally prune young street trees. The first event was so successful, we held three more. Volunteers have now pruned about 500 trees in several Portland neighborhoods, and they’re just getting started.
Why prune street trees when they are young? By structurally pruning at an early age, we can remove defects that may become hazardous in the long term. Smaller branches make for smaller cuts and a shorter recovery time than sawing off big limbs. Early investment in young tree care is important to ensure that these urban trees continue to be assets, rather than liabilities. A healthy tree with a strong structure is a happy tree.
Interested in joining the pruning fun? If you are a Crew Leader, Neighborhood Coordinator, or someone with a particular interest in tree care, we’d love for you to attend an upcoming Community Tree Care trainings (we’re planning one in June). It’s a great way to increase your knowledge of trees in our city and ensure our wonderful tree canopy continues to grow.
By Kate Farrington
Friends of Trees is already planning for the 2011-12 planting season, and we need your help! In order to surpass last season’s record of 4,545 trees and attain our goal of planting 5,500 low-cost street and yard trees in the Portland-Vancouver metro area next year, we need Neighborhood coordinators who can volunteer their time to help organize these neighborhood plantings.
Neighborhood coordinators are essential to making a Friends of Trees tree planting event possible by talking to neighbors about planting trees, keeping track of homeowner inquiries and tree requests, and helping organize their neighborhood planting event with support from the Friends of Trees staff.
No experience is necessary! We’ll train you in all aspects of this role and support you throughout the planting season as you raise awareness about the planting event, help your neighbors order trees, and organize the logistics of planting day.
Neighborhood coordinators typically work in teams as adjacent neighborhoods are grouped into planting events together. Scheduling is very flexible, and most work can be done at home. The typical time commitment is approximately 80 hours from mid-summer until the planting event occurs between November and March.
Participating in this program is an excellent opportunity to meet your neighbors, develop valuable organizing skills, and have fun while making an important and lasting difference in your community. Remember, the trees you help plant today will improve aesthetics, air and water quality, neighborhood livability, stormwater mitigation, and property values for decades to come!
If you’re interested in attending our next training, please fill out this registration form. There are several neighborhoods in Portland and Vancouver that currently don’t have a coordinator, and without a neighborhood coordinator, we’re unable to plant trees there!
FIRST TRAINING SESSION: This session is required for all prospective neighborhood coordinators. It is intended to give a broad introduction to Friends of Trees and the Neighborhood Trees program as well as information about a neighborhood coordinator’s roles, responsibilities, and strategies needed to get the job done.
Wednesday June 8, from 6:00-8:30 p.m. at Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church, 2828 SE Stephens Street, Portland OR 97214.
Tuesday August 16 from 6:00-8:30 p.m. Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church, 2828 SE Stephens Street Portland, OR 97214 (map)
SECOND TRAINING SESSION: This session will be an opportunity for new and returning neighborhood coordinators to meet each other, talk about ideas, and learn more about our online ordering system.
Thursday, August 18, from 6:00-8:30 p.m. Northeast Community Center, 1630 Northeast 38th Avenue Portland OR (map) This is for Portland coordinators only.
Tuesday August 23 from 6:00-8:30 p.m. Location TBD. This is for Vancouver coordinators only.
If you have any questions or would like to sign up for these trainings, please e-mail Kate Farrington, or call her at 503-282-8846 ext. 28. We look forward to working with you!
— Farrington is a Neighborhood Trees Specialist with Friends of Trees.