Merkley learns about massive Interstate 205 tree-planting program

By James Mayer
Portland, OR (August 26, 2011)- Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley lives in East Portland and often rides his bike on the Interstate 205 Multi-Use path. Merkley noticed recently that trees started popping up on the slope between the path and freeway. “I saw all these trees and wondered what the story was,” the Democrat said.

Merkley got a briefing Thursday, and a chance to water a couple of those trees at the corner of Southeast 92nd Avenue and Southeast Schiller Street. The trees – some 6,000 when the project is completed early next year – are the result of a $410,000 grant from Metro, funded by a bond measure approved by voters in 2008, to Friends of Trees, said Scott Fogarty, the organizations executive director.
The group hopes the project will inspire the Oregon Department of Transportation, which owns the path, to consider trees an important component of highway projects. When completed, the project will provide a shaded walk or bike ride for 16.5 miles from Marine Drive to Gladstone, said ODOT’s Shelli Romero.
The Friends group has hired Verde, a non-profit nursery that grew out of Hacienda CDC, a non-profit housing developer in Cully, to provide watering and maintenance services. The trees have been planted by local high school volunteers organized by the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center. The third and last planting season will begin in November and run through March. Trees include Douglas Fir, Black Hawthorne, Ponderosa Pine, and cascara. Merkley noted that the bark of the cascara tree is a laxative, and he recalled the mischief he used to commit in Boy Scout camp with the red bark.
The senator said he would like to see a massive national tree-planting program, which was music to the ears of Friends of Trees, which has been pushing a program to require one percent of transportation spending to go for trees or other greenery, similar to the one-percent-for-art program.
Related Resources:
The Oregonian- Merkley learns about massive Interstate 205 tree-planting program
Friends of Trees
ACTrees Public Policy Advocacy Agenda