Drivers and pedestrians traveling down Wilsonville Road toward Inza R Wood Middle School were greeted by mounds of uprooted filbert trees on the last Friday of September.
Owned by the Bernert family — which also owns Wilsonville Concrete Products (WCP) — the orchard has been a fixture in Wilsonville, planted back when Wilsonville was still a largely agricultural area. But the large, multi-acre orchard had reached the end of its producing life, according to Doug Gilmer, manager at Wilsonville Concrete. Due to this, the owners decided to remove the trees.
At the Oct. 2 Wilsonville City Council meeting, councilors and staff expressed their surprise regarding the orchard being removed. Under City agricultural ordinances, filbert — also known as hazelnut — trees are exempt as agricultural products so the owners didn't need to notify the City
or get a permit before removing them, according to Planning Director Chris Neamtzu. Nevertheless, the City reached out to Joe Bernert Towing, which oversaw the project, for some answers.
"They were broken apart, as we all know, and weren't being maintained," Neamtzu said. "The operation was to remove all the dead and dying filbert trees, which has been done. The ownership also alluded to the fact that they had a lot of people coming onto the property and camping in various portions and that the orchard provided shelter for that, so they were looking to secure the property and open it up to abate that trespassing that had been going on at the site."
There has been buzz on multiple social media sites, including Nextdoor and the People of Wilsonville Facebook page, that the area will be turned into a residential block. The majority of the land closest to Wilsonville Road is zoned for residential, with the back acres of the land stretching toward the river being zoned as residential agricultural holding — meaning no more than one dwelling unit for every 35 acres. Despite the residential zoning, Gilmer said that there are no plans for the land at this time.
As for the trees, Gilmer confirmed that a chipper will be brought in within the coming months to process the piles of dead trees.