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Heritage Tree Committee names 2016 award winners

Groves near Banks, North Plains part of historic tree registry

TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - The Jenkins Estate Elm Grove, the lone trees designated as Heritage Trees in the Beaverton area, creates a leafy green tunnel of sorts on the Jenkins Estate at 8005 S.W. Grabhorn Road.A tight-knit group of mainly volunteers sat around a small stage celebrating Portland’s Arbor Day festivities at the South Park Blocks and the crowd of 75 or so applauded loudly as Portland’s Catherine Mushel received the 2016 Maynard Drawson Memorial Award.

This year, the second since the award’s 2014 inception, the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee and Oregon Travel Experience decided to hand out two awards — one for an individual, Mushel, and the second honoring a group, the Albina Neighborhood Tree Team.

Groves of trees near Banks and North Plains are also part of the state heritage tree registry. (See sidebar).

Initially, the award was given to an Oregonian who performs “exceptional and sustained efforts to promote the value of our state’s trees, and who educates the public about notable trees or groves,” according to an Oregon Travel Experience press release.

Mushel, 61, didn’t say much to the attentive crowd as she accepted a plaque from Jennifer Karp, a member of the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee. Jenkins Estate elms

“I have the privilege today giving this year’s awards that were created by the forestry commission in honor of Bill Naito, a community leader who founded the Portland Urban Forestry Commission in (1976) and served on it for more than 20 years,” Karp said. “He was an advocate of the aesthetics and economic importance trees have to our city, and so is Catherine Mushel. She works tirelessly to bridge the gaps between the city, its residents and Portland’s trees.”

Mushel, a member of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association Tree Steward Coalition, quietly thanked her friends, family, and neighborhood.

Once on the side of the stage, she talked about her philosophy of trees and why the Oregon Heritage Tree Program and the public’s overall awareness of the importance of trees is something that needs to take root in all communities sooner rather than later.

“My focus has gotten deeper because it’s gotten more connected to justice,” Mushel said. “Trees connect to human health in a deep way. We need to breathe, of course, but by justice I mean many people don’t realize when you look at a map of (many) cities you can see that where there is poverty there also is a low tree canopy. Also, as cities get denser, there is going to be a lot of pressure to keep those trees in each neighborhood and not have them knocked down by new development.”

Karp said the Albina Neighborhood Tree Team showed “remarkable effectiveness” in the multiple efforts, including hosting a well-attended neighborhood Arbor Day event, starting Portland’s “Decode the Tree Code” program with the city’s parks and recreation department, and teaching people how to effectively communicate with city leaders, as well as other projects.

“They’ve enriched the community for years to come,” Karp said. “I hope things like this will happen again and again across the city.”

Heather Wheeler, who described herself as an arborist and a land steward, is a member of the Albina group. She said was pleased that what started as a simple conversation among neighbors grew into an action plan that was executed. Jenkins Estate elms

“Within a year we went from having a conversation to completing projects,” Wheeler said. “Now, it’s becoming an ongoing thing.”

Meryl Redisch, chairwoman of the Portland Urban Forestry Commission, said the goal of the forestry commission and the Drawson Memorial Award is to advise cities on matters related to trees with the goal of expanding the canopy across the entire region for all residents and to bring attention to the importance of trees in all Oregon communities.

“Portland has its share of tree stories but they’re not alone,” Reddish said. “Today, society recognizes the value of trees. They need to be preserved. Some need to be removed. More need to be planted. We want to hear your stories about trees.”

One Clackamas County city, Canby, recently had a tree recognized as the 2016 National Heritage Tree. The Canby Historic Review Board and the Oregon Travel Experience spearheaded the joint effort to bring attention to the Philander Lee Oak Tree, named after Canby’s founder.

Canby officials say they hope the tree will become a beacon for tourism, as the Philander Lee tree now is promoted to tourists, along with 50 other Oregon Heritage Trees. The tree also appears on Oregon tourism promotional material for a program sponsored by the Oregon Travel Information Council, an organization established in the mid-1990s “to recognize Oregon’s special trees,” TravelOregon.com says.

The Oregon Heritage Tree Program considers Maynard Charles Drawson (1925-2012) its founding father. Drawson is credited with finding Oregon’s Valley of the Giants, a stand of Douglas fir trees with trunks more than 20 feet in diameter, and for discovering several trees that appear in the National Register of Big Trees.

To learn more about the Oregon Heritage Tree program and how communities can nominate a tree visit the Oregon Travel Experience website at: ortravelexperience.com/oregon-heritage-trees/nominate-a-tree/.