City's gray-to-green initiative propels more street tree planting
by: COURTESY OF Shasta Lin, 
Friends of Trees hopes to plant 16,000 trees in the next three years, including through the

They'll plant trees and watch them grow, and hopefully, see some of the stormwater go.

That's the intention behind the Friends of Trees push to plant 16,000 street trees in the next three years - a continuation of its part in the city of Portland's five-year, gray-to-green initiative. Friends of Trees has ramped up with a 'Plant It Portland!' campaign to put in more street trees, or 15- to 18-foot trees on strips between the sidewalk and the street.

Banners, posters, flyers, door hangers, fridge magnets and front-yard signs have been strewn across the landscape on the east side of Portland, with Friends of Trees targeting several neighborhoods, including Hawthorne, Alberta, Parkrose, Sellwood and more.

'It's more of an awareness-building outreach campaign,' says Scott Fogarty, Friends of Trees executive director. 'We already have a great reputation, and not just because we have benchmarks with the city. So far, it's been really positive (feedback). We already surpassed the number we did last year in terms of homeowner signups.'

At the end of the five year initiative, Friends of Trees hopes to have around 25,000 street trees planted, including 5,200 this planting season - 60 percent more than last year. Friends of Trees wants to plant 85,000 total trees on all properties during the five years.

The 'Plant It Portland!' campaign, designed to appeal to citizens' civic duty, officially kicks off at 9 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, with Mayor Sam Adams attending a gathering at Southeast 47th Avenue and Harrison Street.

More than just for beautification, the trees are to be planted to suck up stormwater runoff - debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants. Trees act as mini-reservoirs, intercepting and holding rain on leaves, branches and bark, increasing filtration and storage of rainwater through the tree's root system, and reducing soil erosion by slowing rainfall before it strikes the soil.

The city's Bureau of Environmental Services is also emphasizing installation of eco-roofs and bio-swales and culvert removal.

The street trees eventually grow to 30 feet. They'll be guaranteed for a year, with volunteers inspecting them each summer.

'These are not little guys,' Fogarty says of the trees. And, 'we're elevating the sheer number of trees planted than in the past,' Fogarty says.

The Friends of Trees' marketing campaign includes artwork by Amy Ruppel. Slogans include: 'Community! It grows on trees!' and 'Money. It grows on trees!' And, so on.

Friends of Trees used up to 3,000 volunteers.

'The mission is community building first, and tree planting brings folks together,' Fogarty says. 'We're getting a whole cadre of volunteers out.'

Fogarty says Friends of Trees, which has been around for 21 years, has planted or restored nearly 400,000 trees.

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