Tualatin Riverkeepers and others to discuss existing tree codes

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Brian Wegener and Todd Prager walk behind the Tualatin Riverkeepers headquarters in Tualatin. Wegener and Prager are inviting the public to participate in a summit to weigh in on community tree codes. Look around any given town in Oregon, and chances are you’ll see trees. Trees between sidewalks and roads, trees at the entrances of businesses, trees in the backyards of homes.

What few people often think about is that there are usually rules behind whether these trees can be there, and whether they can be removed.

Well, people generally never think about it until they want to chop one down.

“Typically, in my experience, when tree code issues come up, on one side there’s people who want to punish you for cutting every tree, and the other side that says, ‘We don’t want any penalties for anything, and let us do what we want,’” said Brian Wegener, advocacy and communications manager for Tualatin Riverkeepers. “So there’s always a clash. One side tends to win, and there’s not really a consensus.”

This reality is what drove Tualatin Riverkeepers, Oregon Department of Forestry, the Intertwine Alliance and Teragan & Associates to host a workshop that will discuss these very issues. To be held at Winona Grange in Tualatin on Nov. 18, the Urban Forestry Summit will bring together planners, arborists, community members and others to talk about their concerns with existing tree codes in their cities, and the kinds of changes they hope to eventually see. Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Todd Prager and Brian Wegener stand behind the Tualatin Riverkeepers headquarters in Tualatin. Prager and Wegener are inviting the public to participate in a summit to weigh in on community tree codes.

While examples of existing codes and code updates from multiple cities will be presented and discussed, one large topic will be the tree code changes that Tigard adopted several years ago. Ultimately, the city used a collaborative process to reach its conclusions, and it’s this process that the summit hopes to promote.

“I think our end goal is to create a toolkit for different cities looking at improving their tree codes,” said Todd Prager, a consulting arborist and planner with Teragan & Associates who was Tigard’s forester during the code change. “We’re not saying with this conference, ‘Hey, look what Tigard did, and everyone needs to copy it.’ But (instead), bring all of those different view points together to talk about things, air our issues, get a good working list of the challenges, and let’s talk about some ways to address those issues in a collaborative way.”

Often, both Prager and Wegener have found that when working on projects like updating tree codes, environmentalists are pushing to keep every single tree standing, while the developers argue that such a feat is impossible, especially with the condensed lots they’re often working with. So, the sides must meet in the middle, but that can only happen through listening and discussion.

“The developers realized it’s not impossible to preserve trees, and the environmental groups were able to realize (that) if you don’t look at preserving every tree in every situation, then we can look at planting opportunities,” Prager said.

“We really want to emphasize that this is all about the process, the collaborative process of coming to mutually beneficial solutions, so we can all come up with that goal,” Wegener added.

The goal he referred to is one he and Prager think is one that most people in most communities have: Everyone wants there to be trees. All people benefit from trees, Wegener said, but few people pay for them, which is what makes the issue so polarizing — and yet, at the end of the day, everyone wants beautiful neighborhoods with a tree canopy.

“A tree is something that everybody can relate to,” said Prager. “It’s a beautiful thing, and when it comes down, it’s gone.”


What: Urban Forestry Summit — Creating Effective Policy for Increasing Tree Canopy

When: Tuesday, Nov. 18, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Winona Grange, 8340 S.W. Seneca St., Tualatin

Cost: $15, lunch included


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