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Southwest Portland volunteers will ride high in rose festival parades

Appearance recognizes commitment to tree-planting campaigns
by: Submitted Photo Conan Harmon-Walker has volunteered with Friends of Trees for more than 14 years and planted nearly 18,000 trees.

SOUTHWEST - Two Southwest Portland residents and active volunteers are manning Portland General Electric's float entry in this year's Rose Festival Starlight and Grand Floral parades.

Partnering with Friends of Trees, PGE's float theme - Right Tree, Right Place, Right On! - celebrates the Friends of Tree's 'Plant it Portland!' campaign, a three-year project with a goal of planting 16,000 street trees in East Portland neighborhoods.

The campaign is helping to change the city's 'gray' to 'green' by bringing awareness to the need for street trees through whimsical graphics and grassroots efforts, including yard signs, door hangers and community outreach. The campaign highlights four key benefits that 'grow' on trees: better health, energy conservation, a safer community and money. Tree plantings take place in a number of neighborhoods around the city.

The 20-foot-long float will feature 'planting events' in both neighborhood and natural area settings. Three outstanding Friends of Trees volunteers will ride on the floats, including Conan Harmon-Walker, who has volunteered with Friends of Trees for more than 14 years and planted nearly 18,000 trees during his tenure; and Wayne Lei, who planted the very first seeds of Friends of Trees' 1996-2001 'Seed the Future' campaign. Both are Southwest Portland residents.

Born and raised in Oregon, Harmon-Walker is a network administrator for Legacy Health Systems who has participated in more than 250 Friends of Trees' neighborhood, community and street tree plantings in the region, setting milestone goals as part of his personal commitment to contribute to the community. His said his love for trees began as a child and continued into college, where he majored in earth science. He studied global warming and came away with the realization that planting trees is something he can do that's local and meaningful.

As director of research and development for PGE, Lei has had a vision of a sustainable Portland metro area for decades. In 1996, he encouraged PGE to recognize the value of Friends of Trees' 'Seed the Future' campaign, which had a five-year goal of planting 140,000 trees and native plants in the Portland area. By bringing PGE on board, Lei opened to door to PGE's lead sponsorship of the campaign, which resulted in 157,000 trees and native plants being added to the Portland metro area. Lei provided leadership on Friends of Trees' board of directors throughout the campaign.

Harmon-Walker was recently awarded the Friends of Trees' 2011 Volunteer of the Year award; Lei received the Friends of Trees' Individual Leadership Award in 2009.

The Rose Festival Starlight Parade will be held June 4, and the Grand Floral Parade will be held June 11.

For more information, visit www.friendsoftrees.org or www.portlandgeneral.com/events.

- Submitted by Portland General Electric