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Environmental Services

working for clean rivers

Phone: 503-823-7740

Fax: 503-823-6995

1120 SW 5th Avenue, Room 1000, Portland, OR 97204

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Get Registered for Rain Gardens 101

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There are still a few spaces left for the FREE class for homeowners on Saturday, October 25th

Every year, the staff at East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District (EMSWCD) provide FREE naturescaping and rain garden classes across Portland. From the EMSWCD website:

Perfect for all levels of do-it-yourselfers, our FREE workshops highlight landscaping with native plants, water conservation, creative stormwater solutions and chemical-free gardening techniques that are good for people, water and wildlife. Most include a field trip to a neighborhood project or garden to see these principals in action.

This year Environmental Services is hosting two of these workshops in areas where private property stormwater facilities would be most helpful to current sewer rehabilitation projects. The Naturescaping Basics class on Sunday, October 12th is FULL (you can still get on the wait list). Luckily, there are still a few spaces left for the Rain Gardens 101 class on Saturday, October 25th. If you're interested, see the details below and register now!


Rain Gardens 101

Date: Sat, Oct. 25 Time: 9:00 am - 1:00 pm Location: Southeast Uplift Address: 3534 SE Main, Portland, 97214

Learn how to build your own rain garden! We’ll explore the critical role rain gardens can play in urban stream restoration, and how they add beautiful landscaping to your yard at the same time.

You will learn how to assess your site to determine the best location and size, calculate impervious surfaces, determine soil suitability, choose appropriate plants, and how to maintain your new rain garden. You will also receive a comprehensive manual that guides you through all the steps in constructing your rain garden. Where possible, workshop includes a short tour of a nearby rain garden. RSVP for this event!

Green Street Stewards profile: Russell Golsten

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Russell Golsten is one of the many Portland residents volunteering for clean rivers.

Russell Golsten is an automotive technician from Austin, Texas and also volunteers with Green Lents and Depave.

"I love my neighborhood and the outdoors. Volunteering as a Green Street Steward is a great way to play my part for the environment. Being a native Texan, I appreciate living in a place that is so environmentally conscious. I feel this is an excellent way to contribute." 

Thank you, Russell, for keeping your Green Street facilities looking nice and functioning for clean rivers!

Join Portland's growing community of Green Street Stewards. It's a great way to help your neighborhood and partner for watershed health. Green Streets capture and filter stormwater to protect our rivers and streams and increase the efficiency of the city’s traditional pipe system. Portland is a leader in Green Infrastructure development, and since 2003 the city has built more than 1,400 Green Street facilities to manage stormwater. The city keeps them working and welcomes your help in their care.

Are you interested in getting involved? Sign up or get more information at,

by emailing mailto:, or call 503-823-5623.

You can also participate in ongoing Green Street Steward activities. The Surfrider Foundation Portland Chapter holds green street cleanups every month in Northeast and Southeast Portland:

PDX Northside Green Streets/Stormdrain Marking

When: Tue, October 21, 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Where: Gregg’s, 4628 N Montana Ave, Apt A

PDX Eastside Greenstreets/Stormdrain Marking

When: Tue, October 28, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Where: Blackberry Yogurt Lounge, 2137 E Burnside St (and 22nd)

**FREE yogurt afterwards!

Portland's First Stormwater Green Wall


Flipping a green roof on end is a new way to catch stormwater runoff.

This week, Metro dedicated a stormwater green wall at the Portland Expo Center.  Environmental Services, Metro, and Greenworks worked together to design and construct the green wall.rain drips through planters on green wall

Many green walls are for aesthetics or to help cool the air.  The Expo Center green wall is different because it manages rainwater that runs off the roof.  Runoff flows by gravity through the green wall system, where native plants help filter and soak up the water.

dedication of green wallDevelopers have asked us if green walls can help meet Portland’s stormwater management requirements.  We will monitor the performance of the new Expo Center green wall to help answer that question.  The bureau will also use monitoring information to design future projects.

The 60-foot by 30-foot green wall took two years to design and construct. A $100,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant and contributions from Metro and Environmental Services funded the project.

Check out the wall if you're at the Fall Home and Garden Show this weekend!

Read more about the new green wall in this article from the Daily Journal of Commerce and on Metro's website


Alien Plant Invader: Tree-of-heaven


Don't let the name fool you...

It's been a while since we posted an invasive plant profile.  This one is about an invasive tree with some interesting characteristics.  We hope you'll help get it under control in Portland.

tree of heaven growing along curb

Sometimes referred to as ‘The Widowmaker’ and other more colorful language, tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) has made a good living filling in bad habitat like sidewalks and freeway sound walls, as well as yards, parks and other spots around the city. It’s well-known for using invasive roots and huge amounts of winged seed to clear a space for itself. 

In addition to these physical strategies, tree-of-heaven uses chemicals in its roots to kill off or limit the growth of neighboring plants. For all of these reasons, tree-of-heaven threatens a wide range of native plants and trees and reduces diversity in our urban forest. This rolls back the investment Portlanders have made in the healthy parks and natural areas that keep our water and air clean.

On top of its environmental impact, tree-of-heaven is hard on our homes and neighborhoods. The leaves of male trees smell terrible, like rancid peanuts or well-used gym socks. Because tree-of-heaven grows so fast, its wood is very brittle, leading to substantial branch drop. It doesn’t even take high winds for large limbs to fall on your car or roof (or head). Fast-growing trees can also become expensive to remove, so acting sooner, rather than later, is often the better choice. 

tree of heaven with fall colorsTree-of-heaven is a Class B invasive species in Portland (see the Portland Plant List). Fully-grown tree-of-heaven can be up to 60-70 feet tall. Trees flower in June or July, and form dense clusters of winged seeds by July or August. Leaves have 11 or more pointed leaflets, which are easily confused with those of black walnut leaves. Other tree-of-heaven look-alikes, such as ash and black locust, have rounded leaflets.

What can you do? Remove tree-of-heaven sprouts as soon as they emerge during the summer, though you may find that the “seedlings” are actually growing from the ends of the tree’s roots! This ability to sprout from roots makes tree-of-heaven hard to manage and difficult to remove, typically requiring an herbicide. But, if you keep at it, frequent repeated cuttings of sprouts and seedlings may exhaust the plant’s reserves and limit the re-growth. 

tree of heaven leavesIf the trunk is 12” or more across, or growing along the street, removal may require a permit. As a general rule, Portland Parks Urban Forestry regulates all street tree (as well as large tree) activities including permitting for planting, pruning, and removal. To obtain a permit, or for more information, please call 503-823-4489 or visit  

Property owners are welcome to contact Mitch Bixby at Environmental Services with non-permit questions.

The Plant Conservation Alliance also has an older, but helpful fact sheet at

Invasive species affect us all. They damage our forests, our streams and rivers, and our property. Nationwide, damages associated with invasive species are estimated to be $120 billion each year. In Oregon, the control of invasive weeds and the cost of the damages they create amounts to about $125 million each year. We know that it costs a lot less to control new invasive plants before they become infestations, but we need everyone’s help. Read more here about the problems caused by invasive species and why BES is particularly concerned about their impact on water quality.


Catch up on previous Alien Plant Invader posts:

Join the Weed Warriors to remove invasive plants at Mt. Tabor Park

The group will meet 9am-Noon on Saturday September 27th and Saturday October 25th

The Friends of Mt. Tabor Park (FMTP) Weed Warriors are key partners in the city's effort to remove invasive plants and restore native plants in the natural areas at Mt. Tabor Park (find out more at This reduces stormwater runoff to improve watershed health, enhances habitat for wildlife, and protects Mt. Tabor's forests. Photos and more information about Weed Warrior events are at

The efforts of friends and neighbors make many of our city's parks and natural areas safer and more beautiful. At Mt. Tabor Park, the FMTP Foot Patrol keeps the park safe and clean, FMTP volunteers staff the Visitor Center to inform visitors from around the globe about the park, and FMTP Weed Warriors restore natural areas by removing invasive vegetation and planting native plants.

Want a fun way to be active outside, meet friendly neighbors, and help improve Mt. Tabor Park? The Weed Warriors meet at Mt. Tabor Park from 9:00 a.m. to noon on the last Saturday of every month between April and October. The final opportunities this year are on Saturday, September 27 and Saturday, October 25. Meet at the kiosk next to the amphitheater parking lot. Go to for more information.