Homeowners can grow Eugene’s urban forest

By Joel Gorthy
Eugene, OR (August 29, 2009)- The next three months generally are the best time of the year for planting new trees or replacing trees that died or were removed because of storm damage, disease or hazardous conditions. For homeowners in Eugene who want to take advantage of the cool fall months to replace trees or add trees in their street right-of-way, a volunteer program managed by the city- NeighborWoods- may provide the trees for free. It’s one piece of an urban forestry program that aims to plant two new trees for every one removed in the city and that helped earn Eugene its 30th consecutive Tree City USA Award.

“Basically, we live in a forest,” says Rick Olkowski, who coordinates the NeighborWoods program for the city’s Parks & Open Space Division. “Being able to have tree canopy brings safer neighborhoods, better-looking neighborhoods, traffic calming and other benefits [such as] improving home resale values and helping with heating and cooling costs.”
When Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy accepted the 2009 Tree City USA Award during an Arbor Day event in May, she cited a Center for Urban Forestry Research study that identified tangible benefits of trees for homeowners and neighborhoods.
Among its findings:
* Homebuyers are willing to pay 3 to 7 percent more for houses on properties that include trees.
* Lower crime rates exist in areas with trees.
* In a city, 10,000 trees can reduce flooding, runoff, and erosion by storing 10 million gallons of water.
* Trees by homes can cut cooling costs by 40 percent.
* Within their lifespan, 30 trees can remove 120 tons of carbon from the environment.
To help realize these benefits, NeighborWoods is designed to bring together neighbors, local businesses and the city’s forestry staff to plant and care for street trees in public rights-of-way throughout the city. Local residents can get free trees for the median strips outside their home in return for planting, watering and maintaining the trees for the first three years.
In certain situations, such as when a homeowner is physically unable to plant trees or where many trees are being planted as part of a larger neighborhood project, NeighborWoods volunteers will plant the trees. In all, Olkowski says, NeighborWoods adds 400 to 600 trees to the urban forest each year.
Three years after planting, street trees are structure-pruned by trained volunteer tree stewards. Thereafter, the trees will receive periodic safety pruning and other maintenance by city forestry staff.
Choosing the appropriate species for a plantable streetside spot is critical to the long-term vitality and safety of a tree, Olkowski says. When a homeowner places a request for a street tree or trees, Olkowski will schedule an inspection of the site to measure the planting area and the overhead and lateral space for the future tree canopy, to identify the soil type and to consider utilities or other obstacles to planting.
“We want to make sure we get the right tree in the right place,” Olkowski says. “We have a lot of older trees in the city that were planted beneath power lines or in spaces that weren’t quite large enough.” Sometimes, proximity to power lines or root-damaged sidewalks become safety hazards that require tree removal.
If suitable planting spaces are identified, a homeowner will have an opportunity to choose from among several suitable trees available through the city. Priority is given to native species where suitable, including big-leaf maple, Oregon ash and Oregon white oak. Other trees that Olkowski says are popular with homeowners are ‘Autumn Blaze’ maple, ‘Autumn Purple’ white ash, ‘Golden Desert’ ash and Japanese snowbell.
“Wherever possible, we try to get in the largest tree canopy that the space will allow,” Olkowski explains. “We also try to accommodate people’s requests as much as possible, because this is something that’s going to be in front of their house.”
To request street trees – or to find out about organizing a planting party to beautify a part of your neighborhood that lacks trees – call the NeighborWoods coordinator at (541) 682-4831. Residents should contact NeighborWoods in advance of the fall/winter planting season to inquire about tree availability and get on the schedule for a site inspection.
Also, a free permit is required by the city for planting trees on public property. Call (541) 682-4800, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or pick one up at the Public Works Parks & Open Space office, 1820 Roosevelt Blvd. Call the same number for any other issues relating to existing street trees, including questions about tree removal or safety pruning.
For more information online, including a list of street tree species that are approved by the city, visit www.eugene-or.gov (search for “urban forestry” and then click the “planting new trees” link).
Related Resources:
Eugene Register Guard- Homeowners can grow Eugene’s urban forest
NeighborWoods Month