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Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-PLAY (7529)

Fax: 503-823-6007

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

Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry News and Activities 

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Planting Cherry Trees Creates Living Memorial to Japan’s Tsunami and Earthquake

Akebono Cherry March 24 2008

March 11 marks the fourth anniversary of the massive earthquake and accompanying tsunami that struck eastern Japan in 2011. The earthquake was the fourth strongest ever recorded anywhere. Together with an accompanying tsunami, it claimed more than 15,000 lives, with over 2,000 people still missing and presumed dead.  It was the costliest catastrophe to hit Japan since World War II. To commemorate it, the Japanese, like so many other cultures memorializing tragedies, are planting trees. But they are doing so in a unique way.

Over the next decade, some 17,000 pink-flowering cherry trees will be planted to mark the line where the tsunami unleashed by the 9.0 earthquake reached inland, in some cases six to 12 miles from the ocean. When fully planted, this living memorial will stretch for 105 miles. Everything seaward of where the trees will stand was engulfed by the roiling wall of seawater, which claimed more lives than the shaking ground. Proponents hope the memorial will help survivors of any future earthquake know how far inland they need to evacuate to be safe from a tsunami.

Cherry trees were a natural choice for the memorial because in Japan the lovely but short-lived blossoms symbolize life’s sweet beauty and its fragile, fleeting nature. For at least a thousand years the Japanese have been admiring cherry blossoms each spring in outings known as hanami, or cherry blossom viewing.

Cherry trees are also being planted here in the United States. A Japanese business executive has started planting cherry trees at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio to symbolize Japanese gratitude for flights of relief supplies, search and rescue missions, and reconstruction aid. This hearkens back to the first gift of Japanese cherry trees to this country a little over a century ago. Each April those trees bring thousands of visitors to Washington, D.C. to view the delicate display, a reminder of hopes for peace between the two nations.

One of the best places to view cherry blossoms in Portland is at the north end of Waterfront Park in the Japanese-American Historical Plaza. Dedicated in August 1990, the plaza’s living glory is the double row of Akebono cherry trees, a white-flowering cultivar that originated in Japan. Administered by the Oregon Nikkei  Endowment, Inc., the plaza tells the story of Portland’s Japanese and Japanese-American community. Plaques recall the forced internment in remote inland camps of people of Japanese ancestry – whether immigrants or U.S.-born citizens – during World War II. The plaza was created with support from Portland Parks & Recreation and many others, including the Metropolitan Arts Commission, Portland Development Commission, and a number of private foundations and businesses.

 Japanese Historical Plaza April 11 2011

This year the Japanese-American Historical Plaza cherry trees are scheduled to peek the week of March 9th.

Winter Tree ID at Lone Fir Cemetery

Join Urban Forestry for a Winter Tree Identification Workshop
Saturday, February 28, 2015 9:30-11:30 am
Lone Fir Cemetery – SE 26th Avenue between SE Stark and SE Morrison

Enjoy the beautiful trees of Lone Fir Cemetery while improving your tree id skills. Can you identify a tree from bud and leaf scars, bark, and twigs? Only the three heritage trees at the cemetery will be labeled (the namesake Douglas fir; the General Joseph Lane maple; and a 100-foot incense cedar!) Lone Fir is Portland’s oldest continuously used cemetery and is now a de facto arboretum, with 500 trees representing 67 species. Participants will walk the grounds and discover a new way of looking at trees without leaves. Bring your camera!

9:15 - 9:30: Registration
9:30 - 11:30: Winter Tree Id Walk
Register online at:

Contact: Elizabeth Specht at Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry


Sacramento Elementary School Learning Landscape Tree Planting

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Sacramento 2003 Tree Planting

Click here for Portland Parks & Recreation Learning Landscape home page.

On February 27 Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry will plant 38 trees with students, parents and teachers from Sacramento School in northeast Portland.  These trees from five continents will increase tree diversity on the school grounds and create an opportunity to learn about geography, science, arts and writing by studying these unique trees.


Improve the health of students and the surrounding environment by planting a diverse mix of trees at Sacramento School. 

Special considerations

Special emphasis will be on evergreen conifers to help buffer bitterly cold east winds from the Columbia Gorge that can strike in winter.

  • 20 conifers (including some deciduous conifers) and 6 broadleaf trees
  • More than a half of the trees will be Oregon natives
  • 4 of the trees are living fossils – ginkgo, monkey puzzle, giant sequoia, and umbrella pine
  • 2 represent trees that would have grown on the ancient supercontinent Gondwana (monkey puzzle and Tasmanian summit cedar)
  • The planting will be intentionally diverse to maximize learning opportunities:
  • Trees from at least five continents
  • Trees from 5 of the 8 countries where Portland has a sister city
  • Trees will provide visual interest for classrooms
  • Edible Asian persimmons will provide seasonal interest
  • Smaller, slower growing conifers will to provide year-round visual interest and reduce noise to the classrooms from the playgrounds

Trees are being selected for:

  • usefulness for teaching tree biology, natural history, ethnobotany and other subjects
  • many of the trees have cultural significance to Asian, Native American and other peoples
  • fall color and diverse foliage color and texture will beautify the landscape
  • longer lifespans and lower maintenance needs (no spraying)
  • value to wildlife as food or shelter
  • 10 of the trees are listed as endangered or vulnerable to extinction in the wild or near threatened

Benefits from the planting

1.     To students, trees will:

  • filter asthma-worsening air pollution from the nearby I-205 freeway and other streets
  • reduce stress-inducing noise from the nearby I-205 freeway
  • provide shade and cool the air on hot days
  • reduce the brunt of frigid east winds from the Columbia Gorge during winter

2.     To the environment, trees will provide:

  • food, roosting and nesting sites for wildlife
  • evergreen trees will provide shelter from storms and winter cold and will intercept stormwater runoff
  • greater biodiversity, with about 20 species and 14 genera in 8 tree families


Students will be planting trees all day, volunteers are needed:

8:00-10:00 am  prep for a.m. planting

10 to 12:00 pm help with morning planting, and prep for afternoon planting

1 to 2:30 pm help afternoon planting and clean-up

Students, teachers and community members are invited to celebrate the tree planting in an afternoon assembly outside at 1:30 pm.

Contact or 503-823-8779 for more information.


8 to 10, 10 to

 To see the full planting plan, click image below.

Sacramento Full Planting Plan

Speak for the trees! Join Portland Urban Forestry Commission

Portland Urban Forestry Commission

Urban Forestry Commission members generally spend about 6 to 12 hours per month on Commission-related issues. This includes about 4 hours for the monthly meeting, 2-6 hours for committee meetings, and 2 hours per month at other tree-related events. Each Urban Forestry Commission member is expected to serve on or chair at least one committee.

Applications are available on the Office of Neighborhood Involvement website. The Urban Forestry Commission accepts applications at any time and encourages interested persons to apply. If there is no vacancy, an application is held until one comes up. The occurrence of a vacancy triggers a review of the full pool of applications and the selection of individuals to interview. When the Recruitment & Nominations Committee selects a candidate, their name is forwarded to the Parks Bureau Commissioner-in-Charge, who then recommends the nominee to the Mayor and City Council. The official appointment is made by the Mayor, for a 4-year term.

We encourage people of color, individuals from underserved communities, and practicing arborists to apply.

Join the Urban Forestry Team

Urban Forestry Seasonal Positions – Now Hiring
Applications accepted until March 10, 2015
Download Position Description

Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry is seeking seasonal staff to work with its science and policy group conducting tree inventory and monitoring activities.

 Tree Inventory Coordinator (multiple positions)

  • Conduct street tree inventory workshops with volunteers in Portland neighborhoods. This includes public speaking, training volunteers, organizing logistics, and      checking data for accuracy.
  • Collect street tree inventory data, including tree identification, measurement, and assessment using paper forms and mobile ArcGIS.
  • Analyze data and write reports on inventory findings.
  • Visit for project details.
  • Work schedule is Tuesday through Saturday from 7 am to 3:30 pm.
  • Position start date is May 7 and duration is approximately 6 months.
  • Pay rate is $15.50/hour.

Elm Monitor (one position)

  • Monitor Portland’s 2,000+ elm population for symptoms of Dutch elm disease. Requires travel throughout the city, visual inspection for symptoms, and recording inspection results.
  • Maintain inspection records, collect samples and send for lab analysis, and work with City inspectors and property owners during the removal of infected trees.
  • Collect tree data, including identification, measurement, and assessment using mobile ArcGIS.
  • Visit  for project details.
  • Work schedule is Monday through Friday from 7 am to 3:30 pm.
  • Position start date is June 4 and duration is approximately 4 months.
  • Pay rate is $15.50/hour.

 Desirable qualifications:

  • Tree identification skills, especially non-native trees
  • Experience collecting and maintaining data, especially with mobile devices
  • Experience with ArcGIS and Excel
  • Ability to work independently
  • Organization skills
  • Writing and communication skills, including report writing and public speaking
  • Experience working with volunteers
  • University coursework in forestry, GIS, botany, or related subjects

Required for All Positions: Valid driver's license and acceptable driving record, must pass a criminal background check, and must be at least 18 years of age.

Application procedure: Applications accepted until March 10. Send resume, cover letter, and list of three references via email to Angie DiSalvo, Botanic Specialist, 503-823-4484. Please specify which position(s) you are applying for in your cover letter. Candidates selected for interviews will be notified by March 17.