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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-PLAY (7529)

Fax: 503-823-6007

1120 SW Fifth Ave., Suite 1302, Portland, OR 97204

A blog highlighting Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry news and activities 

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Click here for a calendar of Urban Forestry Events

Join the Sunnyside Tree Team for a Pruning Workshop!

When: Saturday, February 21, 8:30 am - noon
 SE Uplift, 3534 Southeast Main Street

Click here to register!

Click here to download an event flyer!

Interested in learning how to prune trees?  Do you want to get outside and enjoy some fresh air with your neighbors?

Volunteers are needed to help prune street trees in Sunnyside neighborhood on Saturday, February 21st. Portland Urban Forestry and the Sunnyside Tree Team are partnering to offer this street tree pruning workshop to improve tree health and walkability in Sunnyside neighborhood. Volunteers will meet at SE Uplift, learn the basics of tree pruning from a trained arborist, and then work in groups to prune street trees in the neighborhood.

Certified Arborists can recieve 3 hours of ISA CEUs for participating and leading small groups. Contact for details!


Heritage Tree Walk in Sellwood

When: Saturday, January 17, 10 am - noon
Where: Grand Central Bakery 7987 SE 13th Ave

Click here to register!

Click here to download an event flyer!

Portland’s Heritage Tree Program celebrates the largest, oldest, most historic and unusual trees in the city.

Sellwood and Brooklyn neighborhoods alone are home to over a dozen heritage trees, including American chestnut, walnut, tupelo, river birch, hickory, basswood and more. Join us for this informative walk brought to you by Urban Forestry and the Sellwood Tree Team and learn about the Heritage Trees in the Sellwood neighborhood. 

Join the Albina Tree Team for a Pruning Workshop on January 10th!


When : Saturday, January 10, 2015 8:30 am to noon

Where : Dawson Park, N. Williams Avenue, Portland, OR 97227

Interested in learning how to prune trees?  Do you want to get outside and enjoy some fresh air with your neighbors?

Volunteers are needed to help prune street trees in the Eliot neighborhood on Saturday, January 10th. Portland Urban Forestry and the Albina Tree Team are partnering to offer this street tree pruning workshop to improve tree health and walkability in Eliot. Volunteers will meet at Dawson Park, learn the basics of tree pruning from a trained arborist, and then work in groups to prune street trees in the neighborhood.

Certified Arborists can recieve 3 hours of ISA CEUs for participating and leading small groups. Contact for details!

Click here to register!

Click here to download an event flyer


8:30 am - 9:00 am: Registration
9:00 am - 9:45 am: Pruning lesson and splitting up into teams
10:00 am - Noon: Teams head out to assigned sections and prune tagged trees
Noon: All volunteers return to marked tables at Dawson Park

For more information, contact Elizabeth Specht at PP&R Urban Forestry at (503) 260-5876 or

Lightning Strike Gives Douglas-fir New Lease on Life


Stories from Our Urban Forest - Barbara Warren-Sams   Portland Urban Forestry Commission 2002 to 2006, and Beaumont Wilshire Neighborhood Tree Steward

I’m writing to share with you the survival story of a very old Douglas-fir from the early 1900s to the present—from mature tree to wildlife snag.

When my grandson, now fast approaching his twentieth birthday, was a fifth grader, he interviewed me about our tree and wrote a paper that he chose to title, “The Lucky Tree.” Why’d he choose “lucky”? Well, here are major obstacles that Lucky survived:

Doug Fir

In the early 1900s, I surmise that Lucky survived a massive cutting down of trees that led to Portland being nicknamed Stump Town!

In 1940 my father built a two-bedroom bungalow, including a walkway and a driveway, within several feet of mature Lucky’s trunk.

In the summer of 1962 my father had Lucky topped.

On October 12, 1962, a typhoon also known as “The Columbus Day Storm” or “The Big Blow” hit Portland causing massive tree loss in our northeast neighborhood and four days without power. A nearby neighbor reported to my dad that twice while he nervously watched our tree, its branches touched the front lawn.

Around 1980 my mom grew tired of the frequent need to remove thousands of cone- and millions of needle-debris from the yard, drive, sidewalk, roof, and rain gutters. My sister and I promised that we and her four grandchildren would help more with clean ups, sparing Lucky an untimely death.

I moved back into my childhood home and took over the Lucky tree’s care in 1989. Over the next twenty-five years, this included two instances of major pruning, removal of damaged branches and the second top, and then “rebirth” as a wildlife snag. 

Unfortunately, in June 2012, Mother Nature once again threatened Lucky who now stood about 140 feet high with a DBA of 14 feet. As I stood in my living room one early evening during a brief lightning storm, I heard the crash of thunder as if a bomb had exploded in the backyard. The next morning I stepped outside and found a few pieces of thick Douglas-fir bark lying near the front porch. I assumed that lightning may have struck one of the large upper branches.

To my dismay a month later I noticed that six or so feet of the Lucky tree’s top looked like a red-sprayed holiday tree. The June lightning storm immediately came to my mind and a sinking feeling to my stomach. I called an arborist who advised me to wait to see whether the damage would extend down the tree before making any decision. I must have sounded pretty distressed because he tried to convince me not to panic, not yet. I felt heartbroken.

Lucky’s becoming a wildlife snag occurred in two stages:

        First stage. The top continued to die until it involved the top third of the tree and then seemed to stop. In November 2012, I put out a bid to three certified arborists, in which I asked for two quotes—one for topping (my first choice) and one for removal if it came to that.

   Doug FirThe only response to my request for bids came from Springwater Arboriculture (it seems that not all certified arborists are equipped or eager to handle such a dangerous job). On November 28, 2013, Andrew Craig and his crew arrived along with a boom truck with telescoping crane to reach over numerous other large trees and multiple wires to remove and lower into the street two 25-foot sections from Lucky. Despite my sadness, I couldn’t help feeling a bit exhilarated by the tremendous effort to save my tree.

I crossed my fingers that all was well.

         Second stage. But it wasn’t. By June 2013, damage had extended another forty to fifty down the tree. I called Springwater again. Brian Top of LuckyFrench of Ascending the Giants also joined this second effort.

        No cranes this time. Brian spent a day and a half hanging from Lucky’s trunk, carefully removing eight- to ten-foot sections of the trunk and lowering them to the ground. Two small sections of bark were removed, holes drilled, and then the bark replaced. Several short, bare limbs were left for perching. The lowest branches were saved.

Lucky is alive and may be for a long time. Despite being described with the term “snag,” the new look has a certain elegance and dignity about it. I think if you saw Lucky you might agree. The new lease-on-life provides habitat for a large variety of wildlife large and small, including the many birds that frequent my yard (there’s been an upswing this past summer especially in daily visits from red-breasted nuthatches and northern flickers). Nearby neighbors have also spotted several owls and hawks.Author with Lucky

I want to thank Springwater Arboriculture, Ascending the Giants, Madrone Modern Arboriculture, and Collier Arbor Care for extending the life of one tough Douglas-fir that refused to “go quietly into that good night.”I also want to thank Karl Dawson from City of Portland Urban Forestry for giving me the opportunity to share with you the survival story of the Lucky Tree. If you would like more information, you can email me at


1 Author with family in front of Lucky 1950

2 Removal of dead top with boom truck and crane

3 Final view of Lucky from street east of house

4 Author with Lucky feet away from house

Oregon's State Tree Turns 75

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Happy Diamond Anniversary Pseudotsuga menziesii

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Oregon Legislature declaring the Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) as the official state tree. For much of the nation’s history, most Americans eyed trees simply as lumber or as obstacles to be cleared so they could farm the land. Honoring the trees that created so much wealth only started in the 20th century. Texas led the charge in 1919, interestingly naming the pecan its official tree, a native but one that had been taken into cultivation for its nuts. Perhaps because of the Great Depression, state legislatures seemed to focus on passing morale-boosting legislation during the 1930s. Indiana named the tulip poplar its state tree in 1931, followed by Idaho in 1935 claiming the western white pine as its official tree.  Georgia honored the southern live oak as its state tree in 1937, just ahead of the tree’s starring role as the iconic plantation tree in “Gone With the Wind.” Not to be outdone, the same year California declared both the coastal redwood and the giant sequoia as its official trees. The watershed year for choosing a state tree, however, was 1939. While the rest of the globe braced for world war, five states including Oregon voted declarations of official state trees – Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware and South Carolina.Doug Fir

Interestingly, Washington State waited until after World War II to name an official state tree. Although many were convinced the stately, long-lived western red cedar with its rich cultural associations with Northwest Native American tribes should bear the honor, promoting western hemlock’s future as a lumber tree won a majority of legislators’ votes. Oregon can boast that the official trees of five other states are also native here – from the aforementioned western white pine, western hemlock, and coastal redwood (albeit only to Curry County) to Alaska’s Sitka spruce and Montana’s ponderosa pine. British Columbia’s provincial tree – the Pacific dogwood – also is native to Oregon.

Douglas-fir was an obvious choice for Oregon’s official tree. The conifer is native to 35 of the state’s 36 counties and has served as one of the state’s most valuable resources. For decades, harvesting Douglas-fir was the principal engine driving the state’s economy. Along with its agricultural bounty, Oregon annually supplied the nation with millions of board feet of superb lumber from this fast-growing evergreen. The tree is named for Scottish plant hunter David Douglas, who collected plants in Oregon for eager English horticulturalists in the mid-1820s. Douglas-fir’s scientific name honors Dr. Archibald Menzies, a fellow Scot who had botanized in the Northwest a generation earlier. Dr. Menzies served both as physician and botanist on the early 1790s British voyage of exploration to the North Pacific, led by Capt. George Vancouver.

Today, our state tree has found favor in British plantation forests, where it was introduced by Douglas, as well as nations with similar, cool, maritime climates, such as New Zealand and Chile, where the tree is known in Spanish as pino de Oregon.

Want to see more state trees?   Take a trip to Columbia Children's Arboretum 10040 NE 6th Drive.  This 50 State arboretum was planted in 1970 by students of neighboring Columbia School, and while it is missing some trees/labels but it is a wonderful park to explore.