He also enjoys working with existing property owners on their trees
by: Barbara Sherman, TREES ON HIS MIND — Todd Prager, the city of Tigard’s new arborist, has jumped right into dealing with tree issues in his first two months on the job as he works with developers’ arborists and residents alike on preserving and enhancing the city’s tree canopy.

TIGARD - Todd Prager, a recent transplant to the state, has been learning the ropes of dealing with developers on tree issues in his first two months as the city of Tigard's new arborist.

Prager, 30, started the job Aug. 1 and brings a wealth of experience to the position.

Raised in Baltimore, Prager grew up enjoying nature and the surrounding woods so much that he decided to make forestry his career.

He earned an associate degree in forestry at Bakersfield (Calif.) Community College as he had an uncle living in the area. Then Prager transferred to the University of California-Davis, where he earned a bachelor's degree in environmental horticulture.

Prager worked for a year for a private landscape company and then went to work for the city of San Francisco Bureau of Urban Forestry's Parks Department, primarily working on inspections.

Prager then started on his master's degree in horticulture, writing his thesis on the rooting structures of urban trees, while he ran his own consulting business.

'I finished last spring and applied for jobs all over,' Prager said. 'It came down to teaching at a community college in San Diego or this.'

Prager had visited Oregon and came for a few days before getting the job so felt comfortable about making the move. 'You hear good things about Oregon,' he said.

His wife Jennifer, who recently gave birth to their second child, had never been to Oregon, but the family has adjusted well, Prager said.

As for his new job with the city, 'the whole development process is new to me,' Prager said. 'I did inspections and looked at hazards, but there weren't many subdivisions being built in San Francisco.'

Prager is also learning the city's code, although the Comprehensive Plan is in the process of being revised.

'What I've been trying to do is meet the project arborists,' Prager said. 'They're sort of a bridge between me/the city and the developer. I've realized they're very important people for me to work with. I've been surprised at how much my time is spent dealing with developments.

'Ultimately, it's the developer's decision what to do, but the project arborists I think are doing their best to protect trees in the developments.'

According to Prager, the city requires an arborist's report every two weeks for developments under construction.

'They seem honest about their reporting,' he said. 'It seems like a good system. They don't let things get too far off base.'

Prager said that his preference would be to not spend as much time on developments as he has been doing and be able to work more with homeowners.

Many people don't know that the city offers free street trees to residents willing to plant and maintain them, and Prager would like to encourage that process.

'Street trees are technically the responsibility of the property owner,' Prager said, adding that he mainly gets involved with trees in the public right of way when hazards or other issues come up.

Right now, 'most of my work basically is reviewing developments, but as the city gets built out, my position will evolve,' Prager said.

He wants to emphasize that people can call him with tree-related questions, and if he can't help them, 'I'll put them in touch with the right person,' he said.

For more information on tree issues in Tigard, call Prager at 503-718-2700.

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