Riding bicycles, planting trees

Volunteers put feet to work for Friends of Trees planting event in Vancouver neighborhoods

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter



Volunteers on bicycles maneuvered tree-laden trailers down neighborhood streets as part of a tree-planting event Saturday in west Vancouver.

"It seemed like a more worthwhile way to spend a Saturday than anything I would do at home," said volunteer Vicki Nier. "It's a good way to get out and be part of the community, and it allows me to be on a bike."

The volunteers, some pedaling bicycles, others driving trucks, added about 150 trees Saturday to Vancouver's tree canopy.

Portland-based nonprofit Friends of Trees organized Saturday's tree-planting expedition as part of an ongoing effort to help the city accomplish its goal of 28 percent tree canopy in the city by 2030, said Ian Bonham, a Friends of Trees volunteer outreach coordinator.

The city currently has about 18 percent tree canopy, compared with about 30 percent in Portland, according to a city-commissioned study in 2011.

"The planting today is a step toward reaching that goal," Bonham said Saturday.

The event happens in Vancouver about four times per year during planting season, which is October to March, and results in 300 to 400 trees being planted each year in the city, said Jessica Antoine, outreach coordinator for Vancouver's Urban Forestry Program.

About 115 volunteers turned out for Saturday's event, which began with frost and sunshine. Volunteers gathered and staged the tree-planting operation at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 426 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., in Vancouver's Shumway neighborhood.

Neighborhood volunteers served coffee donated by downtown's Torque Coffee and food donated by Sunrise Bagels before the volunteers, divided into 16 teams, branched out into the neighborhoods of Lincoln, Carter Park, Hough, Fruit Valley, Arnada, Shumway, Rose Village and Hudson's Bay.

They planted trees mostly along street edges. Residents pay $50 or less for each tree and planting, which is a discounted rate subsidized by the Port of Portland, Bonham said. The actual cost would normally be about $200 for the tree and labor, Bonham said.

Friends of Trees canvass neighborhoods before the events to find residents who want trees planted on their property, he said.

A few of the residents, such as Rose Village couple Jean and Virginia Emerson, reach out to Friends of Trees to request trees.

The couple selected four paperbark maples for a parking strip by their home along East 33rd Street.

"It looked kind of bare out there," Jean Emerson said.

The trees have an 85 percent survival rate, said Friends of Trees crew leader Melissa Tiefenthaler. The volunteer effort also in educational, as longtime volunteers give new volunteers tips on how to complete a successful tree planting and give homeowners tips on maintenance. For instance, homeowners should give newly planted trees 10 to 15 gallons of water per week in the spring and summer, Tiefenthaler said.

For details about Friends of Trees, visit http://www.friendsoftrees.org/.