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Saving some tall trees

Forest Hills neighbors hope the city will preserve grove on Sunningdale Road


by: CLIFF NEWELL - Carole Ockert hopes the city of Lake Oswego will preserve a stand of trees in Forest Hills on a site where a water tower once stood. It is across the street from a house where the great American poet William Stafford and his wife, Dorothy, lived for many years, and across from Forest Hills Elementary School. Lake Oswego is known as a city that loves trees. Some neighbors in the Forest Hills area would love for the city of Lake Oswego to preserve seven beautiful large fir trees on Sunningdale Road.

The tall trees, plus other deciduous trees, stand in a small, pie-wedge-shaped area in Forest Hills, on a site where a water tower once stood. It is across the street from a house where the great American poet William Stafford and his wife, Dorothy, lived for many years, and across from Forest Hills Elementary School. The street is pervaded by a sense of quiet, serenity and natural beauty that make it a wonderful place to live, according to neighbors.

However, the piece of property may be in jeopardy. The land is owned by the city of Lake Oswego, which recently floated the idea of placing it on the market. Instead of a small forest sanctuary, a large house may be built on the spot. Carole Ockert and other members of the First Addition Neighbors/Forest Hills Neighborhood Association would like the area left just as it is.

“We started hearing about this in July,” said Ockert, who is chairwoman of the association. “It would be a way for the city to make money by selling a piece of property that is not being used and is costing money to maintain.”

The city is faced with three options for the property, Assistant City Manager David Donaldson said: 1. Leave it the way it has been for the past 20 years; 2. Sell it to the adjacent owners so they can expand their property; 3. Sell it as a lot on which to build a home. Donaldson noted that while the property is small (at a mere 0.2 acres), it is unique.

“Most of our property was acquired through bond measures,” Donaldson said, “so any proceeds from their sale would have to be used to buy another park. This is one of the few surplus properties the city owns that does not have that requirement.”

But preserving the oddly shaped area is important to Ockert and her neighborhood, and she testified about this before the Lake Oswego City Council on Sept. 10. One reason in favor of preservation would be that development would affect four adjacent properties. The removal of the large fir trees would be necessary, and, Ockert told the city councilors, “This would be a significant loss for the neighborhood.”

“This area would be more valuable as open space,” she said. “That would be valuable to our community overall.”

Ockert also said, “The city has the idea that it might remove sensitive lands from backyards and (shift them) onto city-owned property. In that case, this is not a time to rip down those trees. It would be much better to preserve it. That’s our focus.

“The thought of having a 5,000-square-foot house on this property makes me think ‘oh, my gosh!’ That would have a huge impact that would be quite the opposite of how we want to preserve our environment.”

The neighborhood association even has considered the idea of having surrounding neighbors purchase the property as a way to preserve it. But Ockert pointed out that this would not be the normal process for such a transaction. The property would be required to be placed on an open platform and available to all bidders.

In that case, preservation of the area in its current status is the best idea for Ockert.

“I’m talking about this with NRAB (the Lake Oswego Natural Resources Advisory Board),” Ockert said. “We would like to look into the concept of having a heritage tree grove.”

Meanwhile, the city of Lake Oswego is not rushing to take action.

“We have made no firm decisions yet,” Donaldson said. “A public process is required before any action is taken.”

Cliff Newell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 105.



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