By James Bash
For The Hollywood Star News
The health of a city can be measured in part by its tree canopy. Trees help to improve the quality of urban spaces by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations and removing pollutants from the air. A well-placed tree can lessen the amount of sunlight that hits your living room window and makes you feel like you have to turn on the air conditioning, which then pumps hot air into the atmosphere. A car parked under a tree on a warm summer day is 20 to 50 percent cooler than one exposed directly to the sun. Trees help to decrease water runoff, they provide habitat for wildlife, and they look beautiful.
Those are some of the benefits of trees in an urban landscape. Portland is known and admired for its foliage, and the Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau has actively encouraged citizen involvement in the planting and cultivation of trees throughout the city. The bureau has even sponsored a Tree Inventory Program in which residents count, classify, and cultivate street trees in their neighborhoods. Since starting in 2010, this program has identified, measured, and mapped over 70,000 street trees in Portland.
“I did the tree inventory program in my neighborhood,” said Christy Kelly who lives in the Roseway neighborhood. “I would like to become a tree steward and get more trees in the neighborhood.”
Kelly also joined about 40 Roseway residents at Grace Lutheran Church, 7610 N.E. Fremont St., on a recent Saturday afternoon to hear a presentation by David-Paul Hedberg about the trees and the history of Roseway. Hedberg is a Portland Parks & Recreation employee, a graduate student in Public History at Portland State University, and the author of From Stumptown to Tree Town, an informative guide into Portland’s history through its Heritage Trees.
Hedberg drew attention to the fact that Portland has shown interest in its greenery for a long time. Back in 1903, the city hired John Charles Olmsted to draw up comprehensive plans for Portland’s parks and parkways in the future. However, the plans were ignored, because the city decided to concentrate on economic growth.
In 1905, the overwhelming success of the Lewis and Clark Exhibition, which brought more than 1.5 million visitors to Portland, was a game changer. Visitors decided to return to Portland and to make the city their home. That caused a population explosion and a building boom. Some of the newcomers looked at settling in the Roseway area. Only it wasn’t called Roseway until 1921 when community leaders and concerned citizens received city approval for the name. They planted a couple miles of roses along either side of Sandy Boulevard so that a “rose way” would lead travelers into Portland.
One conundrum of Roseway is the row of park blocks on Northeast 72nd Avenue that extend from Prescott to Fremont. No one seems to know how Roseway Parkway came about. Some of the audience members had heard that parkway was used as Victory Gardens during WWI, and Hedberg speculated that it might have been part of Olmsted’s plan.
Hedberg showed several historic photos of Roseway’s street trees. One photo caught the attention of longtime resident Ted Carlston, who exclaimed, “That’s my house! That’s my very first car!” Carlston and others in the audience knew that Sandy Boulevard followed an old Indian trail that led to the Sandy River where natives fished for smelt. Many didn’t know that the trail followed a ridge of gravel left behind by the Missoula Floods toward the end of the last ice age around 15,000 years ago. That fact helped to explain why Rose City Sand and Gravel operated at Northeast 82nd Avenue and Siskiyou Street for many years. It also helped to clarify why trees in Roseway have a tough time getting their roots established.
Anyone can nominate a tree as a Heritage Tree. Such trees must be significant in terms of size, age, or variety. Those that qualify are formally recognized by the City Council, designated with a small plaque, and listed in the Heritage Tree database.
The Heritage Tree and the Tree Inventory programs are just two ways that you can use to improve your community. Believe it or not, the Hollywood District still has not compiled an inventory of its trees. But there is still time to act. Just ask Portland Parks & Recreation to find out how.