Haley Miller has her dream job at Friends of Trees. In fact it was trees – and the outdoor recreational opportunities – that brought her to Portland in 2010.
“Trees have just such a calming effect to me,” she explained. “If I feel really stressed or overwhelmed, I go to anywhere they have big trees.
“That’s why I think it’s important to get more trees in the city, so people who can’t make it to a national park can take a walk in their neighborhood park and see trees, and be around trees.”
Just as important are trees in parking strips, Haley added. “They provide shade and protection from wind and rain.” They also provide barriers for pedestrians from cars and tend to slow the traffic.”
Beyond emotional and esthetic qualities, environmental science credits trees for improving air quality and reducing “heat island” effects on hot days. “I love putting more trees in places that need them the most.”
She goes further than helping neighbors select trees to put in the ground. Friends of Trees has spawned community engagement around tree plantings. Although the organization serves the entire metro area, neighborhood trees senior specialist Haley is responsible for planning the planting events in Concordia, Vernon, Woodlawn and Piedmont neighborhoods.
After Friends of Trees accepts requests from local residents for trees in their yards, she plans morning-long planting efforts in the four neighborhoods.
Pre-pandemic, that meant creating a central staging area where about 200 volunteers met for breakfast and training. They divided into teams, each with an experienced team leader and about 10 trees to plant. They’d return by noon for a celebratory potluck lunch.
“People would meet each other, neighbors meeting neighbors,” she said. “The whole community aspect is really important to us.”
In a typical season – October through April – 6,000 volunteers donate about 40,000 hours.
During the pandemic, 21,311 trees and native shrubs trees were planted, but volunteers worked mostly solo. Those experienced volunteers were provided trees and locations to plant them.
“I was grateful and in awe,” Haley recalled. “They still came out in the rain on their own and planted the trees. It just shows how important trees are and how these volunteers respect that.”
Haley and her 27 colleagues at Friends of Trees are now planning how COVID-19 concerns will shape the upcoming planting season. For details as they become available, contact her at Haleym@FriendsOfTrees.org.
There’s one thing she can predict now with certainty. “We’ll engage the community in a way that feels safe and respectful.”
Nancy Varekamp is semiretired from her career in journalism, public relations and – her favorite work engagement – writing and editing targeted newsletters.