By Jim Gersbach and Ric Vetter | Concordia Tree Team
Did you enjoy the shade and coolness of neighborhood trees this summer? Many of those street and school trees in Concordia have been cared for by a dedicated group of neighbors who make up the Concordia Tree Team.
Our activities include pruning small street trees in the spring and fall, watering through the summer and occasionally working with other organizations such as Trees for Life Oregon, distributing watering buckets in various neighborhoods, and Portland Parks and Recreation, which works on tree planting.
Each autumn, we select a different area of Concordia to prune small street trees with the permission of the homeowner. Residents can consent to our services by following guidance on hangtags we leave on doors or by signing consent forms when our volunteers canvas the streets that will be covered this year.
If we prune your trees, please feel welcome to watch us work, ask questions and provide comments. The Concordia Tree Team has been involved in creating each of the neighborhood’s three arboretums, or tree museums.
The Ainsworth Linear Arboretum was established in 2005 at the request of Concordia neighborhood Tree Steward Jim Gersbach with support from volunteers from the Vernon and Woodlawn neighborhoods. The arboretum consists of the median and planting strip rows on 31 blocks of Ainsworth Street, from Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. to 37th Avenue.
You can learn more about the arboretum at AinsworthLinearArboretum.org.
Sixty years ago, the median was strongly dominated by Norway Maples, a tree that is now considered a nuisance species and can no longer be planted on city property. For the past 17 years, Gersbach has worked with Portland Parks and Recreation to select trees that are relatively rare in Portland to diversify the genetic mix along Ainsworth, as well as species that may thrive here as the climate changes. As old trees die, the maple monoculture is gradually giving way to a much more diverse treescape representing dozens of species and different genera.
The arboretum at Alliance High School at Meek Campus, 4039 NE Alberta Ct., was established in 2010 to form a learning landscape where students could learn about trees and biodiversity. Trees were selected from the currently successful and diverse oak genus and other genera that contain few members—or only one.
The Cully-Concordia International Grove, our third arboretum, is a collaborative project with the Cully neighborhood. Planted in March 2011, it is our youngest arboretum. The Bureau of Environmental Services funded the original planting after securing permission from the Oregon Department of Transportation, which owns the land. The goal was to slow stormwater runoff into the Columbia Slough, and to trial diverse species, including those that might be more climate resilient.
Trees were selected to represent every continent where they grow. Among them are Oregon myrtle; Mediterranean cork and holly oaks; a Mexican pine; an evergreen silverleaf oak from the U.S. Southwest; North African Atlas cedar; Chinese Pistache; Australian snow gums; giant sequoia and two Portland natives, Oregon white oak and Willamette Valley ponderosa pine.
Unfortunately, the neighborhood has learned that the Portland Bureau of Transportation intends to remove 14 of the 60-plus trees of the International Grove during construction to replace the bridge over Lombard at 42nd Avenue.
The young trees in all these tree museums require summer watering by our tree-team volunteers, who can be seen working on various nights and weekends at Meek and along Ainsworth.
The Concordia Tree Team was instrumental in securing Concordia’s first heritage tree, an American persimmon, as well as getting heritage status for one of the natural-form European hornbeams in Fernhill Park. We also provide water for park trees that appear to be struggling during our increasingly hot and dry summers.
The Tree Team was honored with a citation from Portland Parks and Recreation for meritorious work in organizing and executing the Fernhill Park tree inventory in 2018. This spring, with the help of many helpful Concordians, we pruned many small trees along Alberta Street in concert with other Earth Day volunteer activities.
Concordia was the first neighborhood in Portland to have its street trees inventoried in 2010. Tree Team members participated in that census. This summer, Concordia was again first in the city to have its street trees re-inventoried with help from the Tree Team. We look forward to sharing the results once they are tabulated by the City’s Urban Forestry staff.
If you’d like to be part of a fun, active group of Concordians and aren’t afraid of rolling up your sleeves to better the neighborhood, consider joining the Concordia Tree Team. We can be reached through the “Talk To Us” page on the Ainsworth Linear Arboretum Website, AinsworthLinearArboretum.org/talkto-us.