Monday, November 29, 2021
Nov. 29, 2021

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Vancouver Urban Forestry Program helps environmental legacy take root

City residents can get a free tree to expand natural canopy

By , Columbian staff writer
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Vancouver is still striving to increase its urban canopy to 28 percent by 2030, which would improve air and water quality, as well as decrease heat waves in the city.
Vancouver is still striving to increase its urban canopy to 28 percent by 2030, which would improve air and water quality, as well as decrease heat waves in the city. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Vancouver’s Urban Forestry Program is providing an opportunity for city residents to make a multigenerational impact and fight climate change this weekend at an annual tree giveaway.

The yard trees are available on a first-come, first-served basis on Saturday for National Make a Difference Day.

The giveaway was designed to encourage residents to contribute to the city’s natural canopy, said Jessica George, the Vancouver Urban Forestry Commission’s education and outreach coordinator. Vancouver is still aiming to reach a 28 percent tree canopy by 2030.

Trees filter air and water, provide homes for critters and reduce urban heat islands by creating a natural cooling effect with their shade. Plus, trees are a source of relaxation in urban areas and can reduce stress when people walk among them, she said.

Now it is essential to start establishing its roots.

Climate concerns

This past summer showed an example of how climate change is becoming an increasingly prevalent and worrisome issue, George said. Temperatures will continue to rise, there will be more droughts, and weather patterns will change. But it’s not too late to lessen the blow.

“The proverb ‘the best time to plant these trees was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now’ comes to mind,” she said. “We have to start somewhere, and we have to do something,” she said.

The yard tree giveaway reduces the barriers for people to participate in this important environmental goal.

Debra Biaggi of Vancouver signed up to receive a Douglas fir so she and her three kids can learn more about being stewards of the environment. This program simplifies a way for people to contribute to their neighborhoods and can build upon one’s sense of self-efficacy, she said.

“Sometimes you just need an easy way to get excited and then you realize you can actually change things,” Biaggi said.

Her sapling will grow alongside her kids and stand among the mature evergreens that line her neighborhood streets. In this sense, trees can serve as time capsules. Biaggi said she can revisit the tree with her kids if they move and reminisce in the memories they formed around it.

People have the option of receiving a Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, incense cedar, giant sequoia, European hornbeam or frontier elm. Important considerations for choosing a tree depend on space and sunlight. Each tree comes with planting and care information, as well as a bag of mulch.

Tree pickups begin at 10 a.m. and last until noon in the Luepke Center parking lot at 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd. Participants must remain in their vehicle to minimize contact as volunteers load the tree and mulch.

Advanced registration is required and there is a limit of one tree per household. Those who wish to participate can register and look at further eligibility at

Staff can also provide tree delivery and planting assistance for residents with limited mobility. For more information, contact Urban Forestry at

There are still ways to contribute to Vancouver’s healthy canopy if folks don’t have a yard. George said volunteering in environmental programs or “adopting” a tree and making sure it survives goes a long way.

“We need to take care of and steward our urban forest,” she said. “It belongs to all of us and we need to recognize and celebrate it.”