Tree census continues in Portland's public parks
From sky-high conifers to the smallest saplings — recording the hard data on Portland's trees is crucial for mapping the future of the Rose City's parks and green spaces, officials say.
About 40 volunteer data collectors and several Parks & Rec employees massed on Saturday, June 23 to tabulate the timber at Gabriel Park, a 90-acre sprawl located off Southwest 45th Avenue in the Multnomah Village neighborhood.
"We know that trees benefit people in all sorts of ways, from mental and physical health to the environment," explained Botanics Specialist Jeff Ramsey. "These are public assets. Just like a building or a bridge, we want to know what it's worth."
The count of public park trees, which began last year, is an extension of the larger Tree Inventory Project that collected data on 218,000 street trees lining the city's boulevards and sidewalks between 2010 and 2016.
Ramsey says the information allows planners to calculate the amount of carbon scrubbed from the air by trees or how much runoff is naturally filtered before it reaches the city's groundwater. By comparing the data over time, foresters can tell where trees are thriving — or need extra help.
For the volunteers armed with measuring wheels and clinometers, the event is a chance to get out under the clouds with their fellow nature lovers.
"I get up early and get to hear the birds sing — you can't beat that," said Anjeanette Brown.
A member of the city's Urban Forestry Commission, the Rockwood resident says she was inspired to volunteer after watching trees taste the axe in her own neighborhood.
"I was really upset," she noted. "(My son said) there's no point in crying if you're not going to do anything."
"We can't survive without what the trees provide in terms of oxygen, in terms of habit and just in terms of beauty," added Denise Magnus, a resident of Sellwood-Moreland who was participating for her first time.
Volunteers in the field measure the width of the tree's trunk, its height, the size of its canopy and record a general classification of its health and species. That data is inputted into an online map of the park using a computer tablet, and when the information is finalized it's released to the public on the Parks and Recreation Department's website.
Meara Gordanier — who was recently highlighted in a Tribune article about tree-scaling arborists — has received an internship via Portland Community College to collect tree data at smaller parks for the city.
The habitual volunteer says the numbers from Portland's 200-plus parks are important for a long-term outlook.
The "first thing to improving a canopy is knowing what's in it," she said. "These trees are going to outlive us."
Ready to volunteer?
Upcoming tree counts are planned at Peninsula Park, Willamette Park, Kenton Park, Laurelhurst Park, Fernhill Park and many others. For more information, click here.