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Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

phone: 503-823-7529

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Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry News and Activities 

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Cully Neighborhood Tree Walk on Saturday, June 3rd 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 3rd 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

Learning from History through Irvington’s Trees

Join us for an upcoming history workshop in Irvington on May 20th

By Dave Hedberg, Urban Forestry Community Service Aide II 

When:    10:00 am - 12:00 pm, May 20, 2017 

Where:   Holladay Park Church of God, Fellowship Hall | 2120 NE Tillamook St.

Click here to register!

Trees are an integral part of any neighborhood’s history. The Irvington Neighborhood’s large tree-lined streets and mature yard trees are key features of this Portland Historic District. However, there are several important lessons from Irvington’s history that threaten its defining arboreal assets. 

On a hot sunny day, its easy to stay cool as you stroll through Irvington’s tree-lined streets. Remember these trees are artifacts that were integral to the neighborhood’s design. 

The Irvington Neighborhood gets its name from William and Elizabeth Irving, who obtained a donation land claim here in 1851. Later, developers David P. Thompson, Ellis G. Hughes, John W. Brazee, and eventually Charles Prescott, who are memorialized in the neighborhood’s street names, platted Irvington tract in 1887. The use of restrictive covenants, also called deed restrictions, set the conditions for homebuilding as well as who could live here. Although hard to believe today, early Irvington prohibited the manufacture and consumption of liquor and even forbade Chinese from owning property.  

Like many neighborhoods, the homes in Irvington went in before the trees. Trees graced these large planting strips not soon after this photo was taken in 1905. City of Portland Archives, A2004-002.629. 

By the 1890s, lots with restrictive deeds, large setbacks, and wide 6 – 12 foot planting strips attracted Portland’s upper-class to build their homes here.  Advertisements of the era promoted planting large trees along the streets and in yards. In fact, Irvington’s current mature canopy of maples, elms, horsechestnuts, catalpas, and birches are all artifacts from this early period, as seen in advertisements like this one from the 1913 Oregonian.  

 J.B. Pilkington’s 1913 Oregonian nursery advertisement demonstrates the aesthetic reasons people planted street trees. His tree offerings, for the most part, also match up with the mature canopy we see in Irvington today.  

In turn of the century Irvington, planting street trees and landscaping your yard was both a sign of affluence and part of a much larger tradition of urban beautification called the City Beautiful Movement. Defined broadly, the movement emphasized urban parks and connected parkways to inspire and promote social progress. Yet, Irvington’s early restrictive zoning limited the overall goal of improving social health for all of Portland. 

Irvington’s NE Hancock Street after paving and street tree plantings in 1912. Many of the big leaf maples, Acer macrophyllum, in the neighborhood likely date to this period. City of Portland Archives, A2004-002.2517. 

Encouraging other neighborhoods to plant trees, Florence Holmes, Landscape Architect for the Portland Parks Bureau published a detailed article on how to integrate your street tree to your home landscaping. Published in The Oregonian in 1921, the article outlined aesthetic benefits of trees and that plantings “express the personality of individuals who live in the home.” In selecting a tree, she stressed consideration of the local topography, “Irvington folk are able to accomplish much in the use of velvety lawns and a general open treatment, she wrote.  Further, she stressed uniformity and cooperation between neighbors to achieve single species monocultures. The results of her recommendations led to the mature and homogenous plantings of horsechestnuts, maples, ash, and elm often seen in Irvington today. These recommendations from the past pose significant issues for the future of Irvington’s canopy. 


In her 1921 Oregonian article, Florence Holmes promoted planting neighborhood monocultures, an idea we now understand puts the urban canopy at risk for infestation by pests and diseases.  

According to the 2015 Irvington Street Tree Inventory, 54% of all Irvington’s street trees are in the Sapindaceae and Rosaceae families, many of which date to the neighborhoods early plantings. This forest composition means that over 50% of all trees in Irvington are susceptible to emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, Dutch elm disease, or bronze birch borer—threats which Florence Holmes did not foresee in 1921. If she had, she likely would not have recommended planting only these trees. Moving forward, the Irvington Tree Team is learning from the mistakes inherited from our past and helping promote more diverse tree plantings to ensure a resilient, sustainable urban forest.  

This horsechestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum 'Baumannii', is also Heritage Tree #261. It’s surrounded by others of its species on NE Thompson and NE 16th, likely all planted at the same time.  

If you would like to learn more about the history of trees and the people who planted them in Irvington, please come for a free walk and talk exploring Irvington’s heritage trees on Saturday, May 20th (see registration link above). We will view 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 urban forest.