By Matt Buxton
Portland, OR (January 10, 2011)- Despite rain and mud, dozens of volunteers gathered on a barren patch of land along the Interstate 205 corridor to plant trees Saturday. As cars whizzed by, workers dug holes in the rocky slope for saplings that one day will grow into a small forest.
It’s an event that occurs most Saturdays as the Friends of Trees continue its mission to plant trees throughout the Portland and Vancouver metro area. But this day was unique — it marked the group’s 400,000th tree planted.
“We’re really excited about it and we’re really proud about it,” said Logan Lauvray, Friends of Trees’ Green Space Initiative manager. “When we started 21 years ago, it was just a small group of volunteers getting together and doing this on the weekends, and now it’s grown so much,” he said.
While it still relies on volunteers to plant trees, the organization has grown to include core of employees and a board of directors. That’s allowed the coordination of large-scale tree plantings with neighborhoods and city and state agencies. The group is currently about midway through a three-year plan with Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation to plant trees along the 16.5-mile I-205 multi-use path. It’s the biggest single planting by the group this year, with plans for 1,500 d trees. Overall, the organization will plant 4,000 to 5,000 trees for the I-205 project.
But Friends of Trees also has a handful of other projects. This is likely to be one of the organization’s busiest years, including more than 5,000 trees to be planted in neighborhoods, and many more saplings to restore public natural areas. But it hasn’t been easy to get to this point, said Brighton West, who’s the organization’s program director.
“Our big push is trying to get tree planting a little higher to the top of people’s priorities,” West said. Many people don’t often consider the many benefits trees provide, including stormwater mitigation, cooling and soil retention, along with habitats for birds and other animals, said Lauvray. Planting trees near the freeway also helps capture and mitigate carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
“All of us drive at some point in our day, or something we buy is moved by trucks, so we’re all having an impact on our environment — a carbon footprint — and planting trees is one way to have a positive impact on that carbon footprint,” Lauvray said. And along with the environmental bonuses, trees have also been linked to property value, crime reduction and faster patient recovery, West said.
But to most people, that’s not as important as the beauty of a fully grown oak or pine tree. “There’s all those great wonky things about trees, but when we surveyed people they said it’s all about shade and beauty,” West said. “They’re just great to look at.” Portland’s tree canopy is growing, not shrinking like most cities in America, according to a 2004 research paper by Portland State University professor Joe Porascky.
He attributed it to the Friends of Trees, even going as far as to call it the “Friends of Trees effect.” But reaching the 400,000th tree is just a milestone for the group, said Scott Fogarty, the group’s executive director. Friends of Trees is already eyeing expansion throughout the Northwest, he said. “The Portland canopy is about 28 percent, and we hope to get it to 34 percent before soon,” Fogarty said. “We still have a long way to go.”
Friends of Trees plants its 400,000th tree in Portland metro area
Friends of Trees
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