Eugene Bicycle Plantings

Biking Our Way Into the New Year

Why take a car when you can take a bicycle? The Eugene Branch has always taken that mindset and incorporates bicycle crews into every neighborhood planting event.

“We have some really dedicated bike volunteers,” says Eugene-Springfield Program Manager Taylor Glass. “That’s how we can always have a bike planting crew.”

Bike crews are able to transport trees and tools from the staging site to planting locations by using bicycle trailers. In addition to our own trailers, Hummingbird Wholesale often joins us for a planting with their large electric-assisted bike trailers so that we can transport even bigger loads.

Using bikes instead of cars is a reflection of our desire to take care of our environment, and it makes perfect sense to reduce emissions at a bike planting. Beyond that, it’s just plain fun.

“I just love it,” says Eugene Director Erik Burke. “It’s so fun to see the look of amazement on people’s faces when a whole crew rides past hauling big trees. And when treecipients see us pull up, they’re so surprised to see we biked their tree over.”

To give even more community members a chance to participate as a volunteer on two wheels, The Eugene Branch partners with a local bikeshare, PeaceHealth Rides, to have their bikes available at events and free to volunteers. In the past, we’ve had about one event per year with PeaceHealth Rides, but this year we’ll have three! The first will be on January 7th.

With success, fun, and enthusiasm from volunteers, Friends of Trees hopes to have more and more bike crews at plantings in every community we work in.

Clean Air & Community in Cully

NE Portland neighborhoods come together to plant for environmental justice

Earlier this month, 110 volunteers gathered in the Cully neighborhood in Northeast Portland for the first planting of our Clean Air Canopy project. The first volunteers to arrive to a planting event are the staging volunteers, who organize tools and trees for all the crews. At Cully, all of the staging volunteers were also treecipients—they’d have their own tree planted in their yard as part of the day’s activities. They were so excited to help, to get to know each other, and to help get trees planted, not just in their own yard but in their community.

“There was a lot of camaraderie from the get-go,” said Neighborhood Trees Senior Specialist Litzy Venturini. “It was a really positive morning with great energy from the moment I got there.”

This Clean Air Canopy project is the result of an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality lawsuit against a polluter in the neighborhood. The DEQ fined the facility and granted funds to Friends of Trees and our partners to lead community tree plantings in the area. This project would not be possible without our partners: Verde, the Cully Air Action Team (CAAT), and the Cully Association of Neighbors. Verde and CAAT’s advocacy work held this polluter accountable and led to this project’s creation.

“Polluted air and water are one of the biggest environmental injustices we face,” says Neighborhood Trees Senior Specialist Andrew Land. “Tree planting is among the most instant-impact civic actions you can perform.”

That sentiment was shared among volunteers, who were grateful to turn this negative—pollution—into a positive thing for their neighborhood. Volunteer crews planted 100 trees, and 31 different species of trees.

“Diversity in nature equates to resilience,” Andrew says. “Isolated species are very vulnerable in nature. If a pest or disease in the future attacks one of the species we’ve planted, we’ll still have many more out there to continue protecting us from air pollution from off highways.”

A special aspect to the day was that we had an entirely Spanish-speaking crew, led by Friends of Trees Field Tech Manuel Ku. That crew consisted of Los Líderes Verdes, who were training to become crew leaders themselves as part of our collaboration with Verde.

“It was a great day,” Litzy said. “There was that community feeling that makes events so special.”

Get To Know Connecting Canopies

This coalition creates new pathways into the green workforce

In January, a new cohort will begin Friends of Trees’ Adult Urban Forestry and Restoration Training Program, a 10-week curriculum and internship designed to increase career opportunities for underrepresented communities in the urban forestry and natural area restoration fields. Many of those participants come to us through Connecting Canopies, which offers a 9-month training in urban forestry and restoration to BIPOC young adults. Their time with Friends of Trees is one piece of that training, focused on a community approach to planting trees.

Connecting Canopies is a coalition formed by the Blueprint Foundation, the Urban Greenspaces Institute (UGI) and The Nature Conservancy with the goal to create a more equitable canopy cover in the Portland metro region and beyond. Their approach is twofold. First they want to address many of the financial and policy barriers that keep many people from access to trees and their benefits. UGI analyzes tree codes and policies, both to open up conversations with government entities and to select project sites based on where trees are most needed.

Second, they want to increase community knowledge and reduce barriers to trees and green infrastructures by providing access into the green workforce for BIPOC communities. Their workforce development program creates real world opportunities for participants by placing them with five training partners over the course of the program.

“When people work in the forestry or restoration field, their skills and knowledge trickle down into their community,” says Theresa Huang, Partnerships & Planning Manager at the Urban Greenspaces Institute. “We’re hoping that this will help the community keep the trees that they have and encourage them to plant more.”

In addition to working with Friends of Trees on community forestry and restoration, these 12 trainees work with the Portland Fruit Tree Project to learn about planting and caring for fruit trees, with Meadowsweet Gardens to learn about landscape design, and with Audubon and Ash Creek Forest Management to learn about habitat restoration.

“Getting into the field is really hard,” Theresa says. To overcome some of those barriers, trainees are paid for their time. Connecting Canopies was started to be community led and center community voices, so that these BIPOC trainees are able to enter a workforce that they were typically left out of.

For Theresa, the partnership with Friends of Trees makes perfect sense. “When you think about community forestry, you think about Friends of Trees,” Theresa says. “They’ve nurtured so many people who have grown to love trees.”

Making Connections in the Green Workforce

The latest cohort of the Adult Urban Forestry & Restoration Training Program moves into their internships

Providing pathways into the green workforce is one of the ways we can help create the next generation of responsible stewards working in our urban forests. How do we do that? The first step is exposing people to roles they can have in this line of work, and doing it in an authentic way so that people really understand their options.

The Adult Urban Forestry & Restoration Program recruits adults from community-based partner organizations to engage in an urban forestry curriculum and places them in an internship with Friends of Trees or an affiliated partner organization. The program is designed to engage underrepresented communities and address barriers to participation in the field of urban forestry. In an effort to do so, participants are paid for their time both learning and working throughout the program with the hope of creating pathways to actual jobs

The program just finished its ten-week curriculum, with each module featuring a different guest presenter and topic. Diversity of subject matter is crucial. Some things you would certainly expect, like the benefits trees provide to communities, how to plant and care for a tree, and how to identify native plants. But the curriculum goes beyond that to include things like environmental justice and financial literacy.

“Some of the curriculum on arboriculture can be pretty academic,” says EDI & Workforce Training Manager Rudy Roquemore. “It was important that we combine that with more informal and authentic conversations.”

Even though these sessions were held virtually, Rudy was pleased with the networking that happened among participants and presenters.

“The goal was to expose people to roles they could have in this field, to speak freely to folks in the industry, and start building tangible skills and connections,” Rudy says. “I didn’t realize how powerful the connections would be.”

Now, the participants are starting their internships, with 100 hours to be completed over the next few months.

“All of the participants are interested in continuing on to participate in the internship portion of the program,” says Rudy. “That’s a huge success, and we want to do our part and continue to support them.” The internships will be with Friends of Trees, Verde, Treecology, Honl Tree Care, Portland Parks & Recreation, and Vancouver Urban Forestry.

“We can make trees relevant to people’s lives,” Rudy says, “by addressing and eliminating barriers to the green workforce. There is a lot of opportunity to grow this program and make a real impact.” A new cohort is set to begin in January 2023.

Greening Wilkes

Collaboratively connecting a community to their natural resources

In April, residents of the Wilkes community got to celebrate nature in their neighborhood with an Earth Day Celebration at Wilkes City Park. Dozens of volunteers participated in a tree care event and an ivy pull, followed by food, fun, and a bird walk through two natural areas in the Wilkes neighborhood.

This celebration was part of Greening Wilkes, a project incorporating a layered approach to community engagement. Four community organizations have joined together in the collaborative effort to enhance and diversify green spaces throughout the neighborhood around Wilkes City Park and Wilkes Creek Headwaters in outer East Portland.

Friends of Trees, Portland Audubon, Verde, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, and Portland Parks & Recreation have teamed up on this pilot project, so that they can each provide their unique and complementary approaches to community engagement around important natural resources in the Wilkes community. The work is currently being supported by Port of Portland Airport Futures and Slough Enhancement grant funds.

Portland Audubon is enrolling Wilkes residents in their Backyard Habitat Certification Program and leading community nature walks and educational activities. Verde is building relationships with youth and families in the Wilkes community, and has supported further engagement by flyering and door knocking. Columbia Slough Watershed Council has worked on site prep and vegetation management with Wisdom of the Elders and Teen Service Corps.

This planting season, Friends of Trees put on two planting events and two tree care events in the community. Greening the community can take place in both neighborhoods and natural areas, so we worked with community members to prune street trees and plant trees on private property to grow the neighborhood’s canopy, and we continued the robust restoration work at the Wilkes Creek Headwaters Natural Area with Portland Parks & Recreation.

The natural area is special because it is home to the headwaters of Wilkes Creek. Just past the planting site, you can see the natural spring where water comes to the surface and turns into a stream.

“Wilkes Creek is one of the only remaining free flowing above ground streams that makes its way into the Columbia Slough,” says Yoko Silk, a Stewardship Coordinator with Portland Parks and Recreation. “There used to be hundreds, now there’s only a handful. So it’s really special for being that source of cold, clean water into the slough. And it provides a really important habitat to all sorts of critters.”

Volunteers, with crew leaders from POIC, planted and cared for nearly 1,000 native plants and shrubs at the Wilkes Creek Natural Area this year. Beyond enhancing habitat and greening the community, the planting and tree care events give Wilkes residents an opportunity to connect with nature, and each other. That connection is the shared goal of all the organizations working on the project.

“I’ve had community members tell me that they didn’t even realize that this natural spring was here,” says Harrison Layer, our Green Space Specialist who leads Wilkes Creek plantings. “It’s really special to share it with them.”