With a trunk 15 feet around, an ancient Paradox walnut tree stands tall on the corner of Southeast 50th Avenue and Mill Street.

It is slated for destruction to make room for a 14-unit housing complex, which the city approved at the end of last month.

The walnut tree is unique in Portland, a crossbreed of a black walnut and an English walnut developed by botanist Luther Burbank, who also developed the russet potato. The combination makes the tree more disease-resistant and its wood more dense. Beside being rare and healthy, the tree is historically valuable.

Portland arborist Kevin Hillery says this walnut tree is the bulkiest deciduous tree in the city.

The Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association is petitioning to save the tree, hoping to compromise with builder Steve Melkerson. The association is asking Melkerson to construct around the tree rather than sawing it down.

As of last week, Melkerson says he would rather sell the lot than compromise his original plans.

Neighbors say the tree benefits their properties by absorbing water that would otherwise flood their basements.

Citizens have two opportunities to weigh in:

* On April 22 at 6:30 p.m., the city council is scheduled to hold a Community Budget Forum at David Douglas High School, 1001 S.E. 135th Ave. The Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association is encouraging community members to attend and request the council to review the case and fund the tree codes that protect tree life.

* On April 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association is scheduled to hold a land use community meeting in Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church, 5441 S.E. Belmont St., in the Tabor Space Dining Room. The developer will be present.

Julia Rogers can be reached at 503-546-5137 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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