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The well-known tree planting nonprofit in Portland, Friends of Trees, has been planting in Southeast...

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Andrew Land, Senior Neighborhood Tree Specialist for Friends of Trees, plants a Venus Dogwood in Eastmoreland in November. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, he worked alone, on a weekday, to finish up the total of 145 trees planted by the nonprofit across two weeks in four Inner Southeast neighborhoods.  Rain or shine, throughout each year, nonprofit "Friends of Trees" has planted over 850,000 trees since its founding in Portland 31 years ago. Its motto, regarding the plantings, is "Safety, fun, getting it done."

That slogan took on new meaning during the coronavirus pandemic. With safety measures in place, adhering to the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and the Oregon Health Authority, plantings have been taking place with fewer volunteers – but the plantings have continued.

This current planting season started on Hallowe'en, and will continue until the beginning of April. Trees are best planted in the colder months, when they are dormant, because it is least stressful on them when they are "sleeping".

Recently, in the week before and after November 18th, the planting of 145 trees took place in the Brentwood-Darlington, Eastmoreland, Sellwood-Westmoreland, and Woodstock neighborhoods. There were further plantings scheduled in Brooklyn in December.

On Wednesday, November 18th, THE BEE caught up with Andrew Land, an arborist and Senior Neighborhood Tree Specialist for Friends of Trees, who has worked with the organization for ten years. He is an expert tree planter, inasmuch as he was a volunteer for three years before that.

Working alone, planting a Venus Dogwood in Eastmoreland near the corner of S.E. 34th Avenue and Reed College Place, Land explained to us that Friends of Trees has changed its organizing to be in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.

"We are keeping it 'inner circle'; so this past Saturday we carried on with thirty people arriving in two shifts – giving folks a [distant] huddle each time four to six people showed up, making it decentralized and distanced. After that help with volunteers, we staff members finished up [plantings] this week. We planted a total of 145 trees in four [Inner Southeast Portland] neighborhoods, with two or three people per crew, because of COVID – to keep things safe and productive."

Land explains that safety has always been paramount – and now especially so, during the pandemic. He says the organization continues its planting following all protocols, and he considers the staff and volunteers to be "essential workers" in battling climate change.

Planting trees to help remove carbon dioxide from the air is even more important these days of increasing climate change, he observed. But Portland has a very long history of "greening" the city. That history is chronicled in a ten-minute video entitled, "The Tree History of Portland", which was produced by PGE sometime in the 1990's. Narrated by the late renowned Oregon Symphony Director James DePreist, the video describes the stripping and re-planting of trees in Portland – beginning back in the 1800's, and continuing right up to the present. It can be found and viewed online by putting "History of Friends of Trees" into a search engine.

Jenny Bedell-Stiles, Volunteer and Outreach Manager for Friends of Trees, is enthusiastic about its work, and is looking forward to the future – even as this pandemic continues: "Friends of Trees still guarantees that these new leafy members of the urban canopy will be planted safely and correctly during the 2020-21 planting season.

"We expect to plant somewhere between 400 and 500 trees across Southeast Portland during the 2020-21 planting season. That's a lot of new trees, cleaning the air and water and adding beauty along the streets that many of us are walking more than usual, in these pandemic times."

For ample information and photos, go online – www.friendsoftrees.org – or call 503/595-0212.


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