High school and family volunteers pulled on their work gloves as they carefully watched the crew leader brush away soil from the Cascara tree’s root ball surface.
“It is important to find the root flare and make sure it’s on the surface when the tree is planted,” the crew leader said.
When the tree was set into the hole, the young volunteers shoveled in the remaining soil. Older volunteers carefully spread handfuls of mulch around the tree trunk. The tree was steadied with two stakes and a string of twine as a high school volunteer watered the newly planted 5-year-old tree from a red bucket.
Friends of Trees, a Portland-based non-profit organization, commenced the seventh of 17 seasonal Portland tree plantings on Jan. 30 in the Piedmont and Woodlawn neighborhoods in an effort to raise environmental awareness.
The volunteers gathered and split evenly between 11 groups. Each group carpooled with two crew leaders and planted American Smoke, Cascara, Coral Sun Goldenrain, Merlot Redbud, Chinese fringe and fig trees.
Twenty-two crew leaders along with Vancouver and Portland volunteer groups planted 152 urban trees.
“That’s what’s great about the FOT program,” said Jessica George, urban forestry outreach coordinator. “Their position is to build community by planting trees.”
George said the goal in Vancouver is to increase environmental awareness and raise the current 18 percent tree canopy to 40 percent in the Pacific Northwest. Portland’s tree canopy is 7 percent from the 40 percent goal. FOT plants up to 400 trees a year in Vancouver by contract with the Urban Forestry Program, while 2,600 trees are planted each year in Portland.
Portland Neighborhood Tree Coordinator Jesse Batty said after the trees are planted, the neighborhood coordinator checks on the tree’s health weekly for several months.
Clark College Tree Committee Manager Tim Carper said the Vancouver West region has high participation in the planting program, while the Northeast region does not. Residents aren’t involved and misunderstand the importance of tree canopy growth, according to Carper.
“Since Friends of Trees has been in Vancouver for half the time they have been in Portland, there isn’t as much recognition or participation as there is in Portland,” Carper said.
Environmental Club adviser and FOT crew leader Rebecca Benson said the volunteers and organizers donated shovels, gloves and water buckets, while the Urban Forestry Program provided the mulch and the post pounders.
Homeowners can order trees from the FriendsOfTrees.org catalog. The neighborhood coordinator sends the orders to Urban Forestry Program which purchases the urban trees from Willamette Valley nurseries in Oregon.
The Clark College Environmental Club and Tree Committee as well as local volunteers will be joining the second FOT Vancouver seasonal planting in Westside Neighborhoods on Feb. 20 at 9 a.m.
The Environmental Club, Outdoor and Recreation Club and biology students will help the Tree Committee earn the 50 State Tree Campus USA award for the fifth year in a row on Arbor Day in April.