Two Decades of Planting along the Northwest Expressway
Every season, the Eugene Branch kicks off its planting season along the Northwest Expressway, a five-mile stretch of road parallel to the railroad. It’s not the most glamorous of planting sites, but there is plenty of available space for large trees to grow and provide their benefits to the community.
Friends of Trees volunteers will gather in Eugene on November 5th for Phase 9 of this planting project. The land is owned by Lane County and abuts the Union Pacific railyard. Friends of Trees picked this annual planting project up in 2013, but it actually started back around 2000, with what we now call Phase Zero, planted by the Eugene Tree Foundation (which became Friends of Trees – Eugene). That first planting has grown into sizable shade trees, and has served as the site of a condoned homeless camp for veterans in Eugene.
“Those trees are now providing shade to people,” says Eugene Director Erik Burke. “It goes to show that trees can still have benefits when they’re planted in places besides private property.”
For these Northwest Expressway plantings, the Eugene team is creating pods of plants. After removing a eight-foot diameter of grass, they’ll plant one-to-four trees and four-to-six shrubs. In addition, this year they’ve added camas bulbs to the recipe, and will also be adding native milkweed and Douglas’ aster.
Installing understory layers in addition to trees is an approach that the Eugene team hopes to expand on for all their plantings. This year, they’re offering camas bulbs as an add-on for neighborhood tree recipients.
“We really want to be creating habitat for native pollinators,” Erik says. “So we’ve got 900 camas bulbs to plant this season.”
This year at Northwest Expressway, they’ll plant 20 trees, 50 shrubs and 50 herbaceous plants along Northwest Expressway.
“We started planting at the southern end of the expressway, then moved to the north, and now we’re filling in the middle,” says Eugene-Springfield Program Manager Taylor Glass. “We’re required to space these pods out a bit, but that means we have plenty of space to plant trees that will grow to be quite big.”
The next time you’re driving on Northwest Expressway, keep your eye out for incense cedars, Pacific madrones, valley ponderosas, giant sequoias, and California laurels. What used to be an empty stretch of grass is on its way toward being a happy home for trees.
“Each Friends of Trees planting event is a series of moments, whether it’s somebody seeing a lizard, or a kid planting their first tree, or people who just happened to be walking by pitching in to help. One of the best moments is at the end of the day when everyone has a big smile on their face because they’ve really accomplished something: they planted trees.” Matt, Friends of Trees volunteer
Did you know that the oldest tree in the world is 5,062 years old? It’s a Pinus longaeva (Great Basin bristlecone pine) and it’s in California.
While we can’t claim with certainty that Friends of Trees just planted the newest tree in the world, it is possible, at least for a moment on any given Saturday, October-April, that we did indeed just plant the newest tree in the world. That’s another Friends of Trees moment: adding a tree–to our region, to our planet. And there are more than 50,000 moments like that every tree planting season.
As we celebrate the Winter Solstice and welcome the return of the sun we’re thinking about the various ways the shortest day of the year is celebrated, especially, of course, the celebrations that include trees. We’ve learned that some Winter Solstice celebrations include specific trees that have specific meanings; for instance, for some observants evergreens symbolize continuity of life, and oak trees symbolize endurance, strength, protection, and good luck.
We love this. Here’s how Friends of Trees interprets these special meanings of evergreens and oaks:
Continuity of life: trees provide oxygen!
Endurance, strength: trees can live to be hundreds, thousands of years old.
Protection: trees clean our air and water and help make us healthy.
Good luck: to me, it’s clear: the more trees we have, the luckier we are.
A recent paper by U.S. Forest Service scientists* reported that metropolitan areas in the U.S. are losing more than 30 million trees each year. This is tragic, but thanks to Friends of Trees’ friends and supporters, we’re not fretting, we’re taking action and tackling this loss, together, one moment at a time, one tree at a time – at more than 50,000 moments, and 50,000 trees, every year. You can help us take positive action through making a donation to Friends of Trees today! Your support helps grow our urban canopy, restore sensitive natural areas, and helps build community through planting trees – together.
Happy Solstice to you and yours, we look forward to longer days, the return of the sun, and more trees – join us!
By Andy Meeks
Today marks the first day of autumn and the slow change of tree colors from dark green to the yellows, oranges, and reds that are synonymous with this season. These beautiful colors help us mark time, and they beautify our streets and open spaces with their inspiring palette.
Our urban canopy provides so many tangible benefits—stormwater retention, carbon sequestration, traffic calming, shade and cooling, and significant property value appreciation—that it’s easy to overlook the less tangible benefits of aesthetic beauty, wildlife habitat, and the rustle of dry leaves on a cool night.
Another harbinger of autumn in Portland is the appearance of crew leader training posters all over the city inviting you plant the next generation of fall colors by becoming a crew leader with Friends of Trees.
Trainings will occur this November in Vancouver and Portland for our Neighborhood Trees (NT) and Green Space Initiative (GSI) programs. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged as these are always popular and space is limited. You can sign up online here.
Enjoy this year’s crop of autumn colors. We hope to be planting trees with you soon!
Meeks is the Volunteer & Outreach Manager and can be reached at AndyM[at]FriendsofTrees.org or 503-282-8846 ext. 24 if you have any questions about becoming a crew leader.