Reminding a community of its differences and similarities, creating a living laboratory to study trees, filtering pollutants and noise from nearby arterial roads, acting as a gateway for people traveling from the airport to northeast Portland neighborhoods.
All these and more were the aspirations for creating the International Grove 10 years ago at the corner of 42nd Avenue and Lombard Street.
Developing the grove was part of the Bureau of Environmental Services Grey to Green Canopy Initiative. That eightyear commitment began in 2008 to increase the health of local watersheds.
Efforts included construction and planting projects to divert stormwater from the sewer system, reduce flooding and erosion, filter pollutants, provide habitat and increase neighborhood green space.
The Concordia and Cully tree teams and the Ainsworth Street Collective were involved in planning and planting the grove. Maintenance over the years has mainly been performed by volunteers.
To reflect the many cultures represented in nearby neighborhoods, the grove includes trees from six continents. Those trees include the Chilean beech and the Moroccan snow gum. This diversity is in contrast to the maples, ornamental cherries/plums and crabapples found widespread in the city.
A similar combination of trees was not anywhere else in the city, apart from perhaps Hoyt Arboretum, according to Robert Pallesen. In 2011 he served on the Concordia Neighborhood Association Tree Team.
“We will now have a unique arborscape that will look distinctive and attractive year round,” he told The Oregonian in 2011.
Planting different types of trees in the grove also offers an opportunity to study, over time, which trees could offer shade, mitigate climate change effects and filter air pollution.
For example, current day tree team members found the cork oak tree did much better in a recent ice-storm than expected.
“The grove is important because as northeast 42nd becomes denser and more built up, urban heat island effects will become more pronounced,” said Jim Gersbach, Concordia Tree Team member.
“Expanses of tree-shaded land will become even more precious and lifesaving as cool-air refuges,” he added.
Jordana Leeb is a longtime Concordia resident who is passionate about the neighborhood, its people and trees. She lives with her partner and newly adopted special needs dog. You can see her recent film about Concordia at TinyURL.com/ DiaryOfAStreet.