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Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry News and Activities 

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Park Profile: Irving Park

Come join Urban Forestry for their Parks Tree Inventory program this summer! Learn more about your community parks.

by CSA II Tree Inventory Staff member Lizzie Sords

                Irving Park and the Irvington Neighborhood are both named after William Irving, a Scottish steamboat captain in the 1800s who pioneered steamer travel in the Pacific Northwest. He moved to British Columbia in 1859 but his sister-in-law and her husband took over his home, Shaver House. In 1872 after his death, his wife and daughter, both named Elizabeth, returned to Portland. The younger Elizabeth built and lived in the Spencer House, which is still standing today and is the oldest house in Irvington.

The area that is now Irving Park was home to a track for thoroughbred racing, Irvington Racetrack, in the late 1800s. The park boundaries today contained stables used by the race horses, as well as for horses owned by neighborhood residents. For a short time in 1898, the track was requisitioned as Camp McKinley for Oregon National Guard troops headed to the Philippines as part of the Spanish American War. Racing ceased when the land was platted in 1907 to become Prospect Park.

                More recently, Irving Park was a central fixture in Portland’s African American community, by being situated in what was referred to as the Albina district, which saw a dramatic rise in its Black population beginning during World War II. In 1948, the Columbia River flooded and 18,500 people living in Vanport, many of them African American, lost their homes and had to find housing in Portland. Many of these displaced people settled in the Albina district as a result of redlining – a discriminatory practice enacted by the city that prevented banks and realtors from granting housing loans and/or selling the property to minorities in white neighborhoods. By the start of the 1960s, redlining confined 80% of Black Portlanders to Albina.

                With its influx of new residents, Albina had community centers, jazz clubs, restaurants, music stores, and other community fixtures, however, in the mid-1950s, city officials singled Albina out for urban renewal, citing “blight”. Plans were drawn for Interstate 5, the building of Memorial Coliseum, and an Emanuel Memorial hospital expansion, which was later abandoned. The construction of the freeway and Memorial Coliseum resulted in the demolition of 1,100 homes and hundreds of businesses and residents were given 90 days to relocate. This was seen as forced removal of Black residents.  

The summer of 1967 is referred to as the ‘long hot summer’ because more than 150 uprisings broke out across the United States. Hundreds of Black Americans died at the hands of local police forces and thousands more were arrested. On July 30th, 1967, Portland saw a similar altercation between young Black civil rights activists and the Portland Police Force. The Portland Mercury wrote a feature about this piece of Portland history in June. All in all, two days of protests and aggressive, heavy-handed policing led to 140 arrests, 26 fires, and 6,900 law enforcement officers (Portland Police and National Guard) on reserve for 300 protestors.

                In the 1970s and 80s, gangs and drug dealers moved into Albina after several years of neglect/disinvestment by the City and housing abandonment as Black neighbors moved out (mostly to east Portland and Gresham). After deeming Albina ‘blighted’, the City applied for federal urban renewal money (Model Cities Grants) and did a redesign of Irving Park in 1972. The urban renewal project included offering loans and mortgages at discounted rates, so Albina saw population growth again in the 1990s, but this time, the influx was mostly white. This ushered in the gentrification that we are still seeing today.

If you are interested in learning more about this park, its trees, and the communities around it then please register for upcoming Parks Tree Inventory Workdays in Irving Park!

When: Saturday,  August 12th and Saturday, August 26th | 8:30 am - 12:00 pm 
Where: Irving Park | NE Fremont & NE 7th Ave, near the covered basketball courts. 

Posted 8/8/2017

Cully Neighborhood Tree Walk on Saturday, June 3, 2017

Upcoming Urban Forestry Tree Walk in Cully

By Bruce Nelson, Cully Tree Team

When: Saturday, June 3, 2017 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Where: Rigler Elementary School, 5401 NE Prescott Street, (meet in front at the flag pole, where the walk will begin and end)

Click here to register!

The second biggest giant sequoia in Cully. 

Join long-time Cully resident, Tree Team member, and horticultural expert Bruce Nelson for an engaging and informative tree walk in the Cully neighborhood on Saturday, June 3, from 1 – 3 pm. The walk will begin at the Rigler School Arboretum (meet in front, by flag pole), followed by a stroll along NE Going Street between 47th Avenue and Cully Boulevard.

Bruce has selected an interesting variety of conifers and broadleaf trees along the walk and he will highlight key identification features, curious characteristics and notable growth habits of these particular trees. All of this will be placed within the context of Cully’s neighborhood history and the changing urban environment in this northeast Portland neighborhood (i.e., new housing developments and potential street improvements). Much of the walk will be along “unimproved” roadways, so please be prepared for uneven terrain.

Trees provide myriad benefits, including:

  • Reducing runoff from rainstorms
  • Improving air quality by removing toxins and producing oxygen
  • Reducing heating and cooling costs for residents
  • Providing habitat for pollinators and wildlife
  • Beautifying streetscapes
  • Improving mental and physical wellbeing
  • Calming traffic and reducing noise
  • Reducing crime

Join us for this tree walk and see how planting the “right tree in the right place” ensures that a neighborhood’s streetscape remains healthy, resilient and beautiful for years to come, while serving important ecological and public health functions for the community.

The Tale of Lents Park’s Tallest Tree

Join us for an upcoming history workshop in Lents on May 23rd 2017

By Dave Hedberg, Community Service Aide II

When:     6:30pm - 8:30pm on May 23, 2017 (Tuesday)  

Where:    Zenger Farm, 11741 SE Foster Rd

Click here to register!


The tallest tree you can easily see in Lents is a 153-foot-tall Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, and is located along SE Steele St. in Lents Park.

Where is the tallest tree in the Lents Neighborhood? Portland State University’s Canopy Analytics quickly answers that question with their useful mapping program. The tallest tree in south Lents is a 179-foot tall Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, located in a steep and inaccessible ravine outside Willamette National Cemetery. However, the tallest tree in Lents that you can view without an expedition is a 153-foot-tall Douglas fir in the south end of Lents Park. In addition to being accessible, this tree exemplifies the historic stewardship of neighborhood residents who established this park.

Using the Google Map plug-in within Canopy Analytics helps you locate specific trees.

Before it was a park, this site was once a deep gravel pit. While most of the Lents neighborhood sits on a 190-acre farmstead purchased by Oliver P. Lent in 1866, the park has a different story. From its earliest days, Multnomah County officials had set aside the southeast corner of the parcel for a gravel pit to maintain the Oregon City and Foster Roads. Additionally, officials designated the land east of the park for schools, which was the site of the first Lents School and after 1949, the location of Oliver P. Lent Elementary.

A 1940 aerial view of Lents Park before its second phase expansion. The park’s current boundary is in red. The first phase of the park was in the Southeast corner. The red arrow indicates the tallest tree today. Note the extent of the fir groves throughout the area and compare to the Google Map image. City of Portland Archives, A2001-045.931.

In 1902, Henry A. Darnell purchased a large, densely forested lot south of the gravel pit and became the local school principal. On his walks to work through the stands of Douglas fir, Darnell would see children playing in the grove and gravel pit. With the advent of a new road technology called macadam, the county no longer used the pit and so Darnell had an idea: he and a team of volunteers persuaded the county to convert it into a park and playground.

The Oregonian, March 31, 1912.

In March of 1912, two hundred children in Lents armed with tools, cleared the gravel pit of brush and began developing paths. “Working on a plan laid out by residents of Lents and vicinity, the children did a great deal toward shaping the playground out with an attractive park on the one end and a good sized baseball diamond on the other,” The Oregonian reported. At noon, “there was a wild scampering for the trees,” where the children ate lunch and sang songs. After November of 1912, the City of Portland annexed Lents, and the parcel became a city park. Improvements to the park were simple. By 1915, workers filled in the pit, constructed a playground, trails, comfort stations, and athletic fields. In the 1940s Portland vastly expanded Lents Park to its present size.


The Oregonian, March 31, 1912, shows the children working amongst the Douglas firs.

The tall tree was just a young one during these first park improvements. Neighborhood descriptions note the many dense stands of fir, but their exact ages remain unclear—likely because the groves are multi-generational stands planted, thinned, and replanted over the years. Aerial photographs of Lents from the 1940s show the prevalence of these pockets of Douglas fir groves. As the neighborhood has grown the stands have shrunken. Still, Lents Park and the parcels to the south still boast some tall Douglas firs that likely predate the park’s 1912 establishment. Many of the trees show the signs of surviving intense wind storms, and over the years, some have fallen to both weather and human activity. Nonetheless, these fir groves, including the tallest tree you can see in Lents, continues to symbolize the neighborhood’s desire to establish its first public park. The trees towering presence reminds us that maintaining these groves requires staggered planting and some long-term thinking to keep a forested city.

If you would like to learn more about the history of trees and the people who planted them in Lents, please attend a informative talk at the Zenger Farm on Tuesday, May 23, 2017  (see registration link above).  Using historic photographs, we will explore some of the largest and oldest trees in the neighborhood, as well as some new varieties planted in our lifetimes. We’ll not only learn about the past, but we will discuss simple ways to be stewards of our future urban forest. 

posted 5/18/17 

Take Portland's Tree Planting Survey

How can we best provide trees for everyone?

How can we best provide trees for everyone?

Share your opinions about tree planting in this short survey that closes June 30, 2017. Help the City of Portland develop its tree planting strategy to ensure that all residents have access to trees. Currently, tree canopy in Portland is not equitably distributed throughout the city: lower income neighborhoods have significantly lower tree canopy than other neighborhoods.

Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry is partnering with community members, stakeholders, and Portland State University to identify the best ways to expand tree canopy access for all residents. Feedback from this short survey will help us understand opportunities and barriers to tree planting in our communities.

Learn more about the Citywide Tree Planting Strategy at

posted 5/17/17

2017 Tree Inventory Season Begins!

Join us to map, measure, and identify trees in Portland's parks this summer

By Tree Inventory Project Staff

Register for workdays and Team Leader Training now!

Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry is gearing up for another inventory season! Since finishing our inventory of over 218,000 street trees, we’ve been busy analyzing the data and putting the finishing touches on the Citywide Street Tree Inventory Report. If you haven’t seen it yet—take a look!

But we know our volunteers wouldn’t want to stop there, so this year we’ll be inventorying trees in neighborhood parks across the city. We’re pleased to announce that we’ll be working alongside 9 Neighborhood Tree Teams in 12 parks this summer: 

  • Alberta Park
  • Arbor Lodge ParkCathedral Park
  • Berkeley Park
  • Bloomington Park
  • Brentwood Park
  • Cathedral Park
  • Irving Park
  • Midland Park
  • Normandale Park
  • Rose City Park
  • Ventura Park
  • Wilshire Park

Cathedral Park is one of the parks we'll inventory in 2017
photo credit: KOIN

For registration links and a full schedule of inventory events this summer, see our Workday Calendar. Just as with street trees, taking an inventory of trees in our parks aids in proactive management that optimizes their health and extends their lives while reducing risks to the public. Information collected as part of this inventory will tell us where trees will need to be replaced in the near future, locate space for new planting projects, and which species are most suited to our parks and their many users.                                                                   

Be an expert. Become a Tree Inventory Team Leader!

This new era of Parks Tree Inventory comes with new challenges: in addition to mapping each tree and measuring its diameter, we’ll be using new tools to take new measurements such as tree height and canopy spread. We’re even going to identify trees all the way to species level. You may know that tree is an oak, but which oak is it? Red? Scarlet? Pin? If you’ve never done this before, don’t worry – all skill levels are invited and project staff will supply you with all the training you need to identify the trees we’ll be meeting in our parks. Also new this year: the inventory goes paperless! We’ll be teaching our Team Leaders to collect information and map trees directly on mobile devices, updating our online tree inventory in real time! Register now for Team Leader Training.

Staff using clinometer to measure tree height

Inventory Coordinator Carrie Black demonstrates how to use a clinometer to measure tree height.

For questions, see the Tree Inventory Project webpage or contact us

posted 5/15/17