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The vacant, forested lot north of Portland Memorial could still be at least partly a park; it will have parking

RITA A. LEONARD - Westmorelands Chair of the Earth Day celebration on S.E. 14th, Marianne Nelson, placed weather gram poems in trees, appropriate to the day and to the Moreland Woods location. The "Friends of Moreland Woods" group, which for a couple of years has been trying to find a way to privately acquire a wooded lot owned by Wilhelm's Portland Memorial funeral home just south of Llewellyn Elementary School, organized a Westmoreland observance of "Earth Day" on Saturday, April 24. Portland Memorial, after being acquired by the Foundation Partners organization, decided that its two large half-block parking lots were under-used and could be sold for development; one is already in advanced construction. The other is also slated for sale, so the funeral home has decided what little parking it feels it needs can be satisfied with a small parking area on the south end of the "Moreland Woods" lot. Their initial plan called for the removal of several trees, but they have reconfigured their plan to eliminate the need to remove more than just a couple of them. With their hope still alive that at least some of the two-acre site along S.E. 14th Avenue between Duke and Claybourne Streets might still be acquired for public use, the "Friends of Moreland Woods" joined with a six artists from a downtown group of painters called the "Tree Emergency Response Team" who arrived to celebrate the day by making oil paintings of the numerous Douglas Firs on the site between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

In addition, local artists of all ages were invited to set up beneath a canopy to create their own artworks, music, or poems inspired by the trees. Neighborhood families were welcomed to learn more about the trees and the opportunity presented for a small park adjacent to the school on the lot. The light rain on that day failed to dampen spirits, and a surprising assortment of painters, photographers, graphic artists showed up.

Blaine Little, Project Assistant at Tree Emergency Response Team explained, "We organize monthly painting events to bring attention to conservation of significant local trees that are important to their neighborhoods. We exhibit a rotation of our paintings at our galleries, and provide refreshments and supportive materials at each event, encouraging developers to incorporate at-risk trees into their designs."

Some of the fir trees were encircled by bright yellow daffodils and chrysanthemums that day. Mausoleum Community Relations agent Michael Salazar, who was hosting tours that day, commented to THE BEE, "We don't know who put them there, but it's almost like a symbol to save the trees."

Meanwhile, Marianne Nelson, Chair of the celebration, had hung handmade "weather grams" on a nearby tree – poetic descriptions of nature to celebrate the site. There were free "Save Moreland Woods" signs available to all who wanted them.

The ultimate fate of the rest of the property, just north of the famed Portland Memorial Mausoleum, has yet to be finalized by the funeral home.

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