DANIEL PEARSON - Portland's City Forester Jenn Cairo holds a plaque with Matt Morrissey, a member of the Albina Neighborhood Tree Team. The neighborhood group is recognized as the 2016 Naito Community Trees Award winner for a group effort.A tight-knit group 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. 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, a member of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association Tree Steward Coalition, quietly thanked her friends, family, neighborhood, and politely smiled and waved. as she accepted a plaque from Jennifer Karps, a member of the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee.

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.”

Jenn Cairo, City Forester presented the Naito Community Trees Awards to Jim Labbe, who received the Individual Award and the Albina Neighborhood Tree Team, who received the Group Award.

Jennifer Karps. member and past chair of the State Heritage Tree Program, says a few words about 2016 Maynard Drawson Memorial Award winner Catherine Mushel of Portland.“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,” Jenn Cairo, City Forester, said. “He was an advocate of the aesthetics and economic importance trees have to our city, and so is Jim Labbe. He works tirelessly to bridge the gaps between the city, its residents and Portland’s trees.”

The Albina Neighborhood Tree Team was recognized for their efforts in finding equitable solutions to community tree care . Cairo said “They’ve enriched the community for years to come,” Cairo 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.

“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 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 Portland communities.

One Clackamas County city, Canby, recently had a tree recognized as the 2016 Oregon 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,” 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:

Decode the Tree Code:

Portland Urban Forestry Commission:

The Arbor Day Foundation/Tree City USA:

National Register of Big Trees:

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