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Portland Parks & Recreation advice for winter storm aftermath

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PP&R staff continue working on more than 750 tree emergencies on public streets citywide. Here is an update and some helpful information for you.

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(Portland, OR) - 

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) staff in our Urban Forestry division continue to help Portland recover from what they call the most impactful winter storm in decades. As of February 24, 2021, crews are working to resolve more than 750 tree emergencies in public streets citywide. Some are trees or limbs blocking roadways and others are large, unstable limbs still attached to trees, or trees which remain at risk of falling.

We have skilled, experienced, and certified staff with specialized equipment clearing trees, hanging branches, and addressing unstable trees. This is technical, dangerous, and demanding work. 

Urban Forestry crews are working around the clock on street obstructions and unstable trees and limbs near public roads, next will be damaged trees in parks and other City-owned and managed properties. PP&R Land Stewardship crews are out clearing downed tree debris in parks.

What you can do

  • To help us prioritize urgent services as quickly as possible, please postpone non-emergency requests that can wait and submit them at a later time.
     
  • If you have called or emailed Urban Forestry, we kindly request you wait five business days until inquiring again to prevent creating duplicate emails while the bureau is working at maximum capacity. 
  • Call 503-823-TREE (8733) to report tree emergencies on public streets or sidewalks. When the current  emergency situation is resolved, this number can be used to get information on tree regulations, tree permits, and/or any other tree-related questions.
  • If you have already emailed a report of a tree emergency blocking or threatening a public street or sidewalk, please call 503-823-TREE (8733) for emergency dispatch 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Email reports may result in a delayed response.
     
  • If a tree emergency situation involves downed wires please contact your utility provider first. Urban Forestry is unable to respond until electrical hazards have been addressed.
  • If you are contacting us about a debris pile left by our team it may take eight weeks for Urban Forestry staff to return for pick-up. Please consider safely using the City’s weekly compost bin service or contact a Tree Care Provider or a lawn care professional to assist with your debris pile.
     
  • Visit portland.gov/trees for more information.

Dealing with trees on your property after the storm

While PP&R’s Urban Forestry division provides 24/7 emergency response for trees blocking or threatening to fall in public streets, maintenance of street trees in Portland is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner, per City Code. Street trees are those in a public right-of-way, usually growing between the road and sidewalk, but sometimes behind the sidewalk. PP&R Urban Forestry’s division issues permits which are required to remove, prune, or plant street trees.

Think about safety first. Dangerous branches and trees under tension may snap back and strike you, other people, or things around you. Downed power lines can be involved and can be deadly. If you have a large downed tree or branches, or branches broken but still attached to the tree, it is not advisable to try to address this sort of situation yourself.

For street and private-property tree needs post-storm, please consult an experienced, licensed, and certified arborist to address your tree issues. They will have the necessary technical expertise to safely address dangerous situations.

There are many experienced arborists on the City’s list of Portland Local Tree Care Providers. These professionals have all the required licenses and certifications; they have training from PP&R’s Urban Forestry division experts, and can advise on obtain required permits – or obtain the necessary permits for the property owner.

The value of trees

Portland Parks & Recreation wants people to understand the value of trees, why it’s important to have more of them, and to protect and care for the ones we have.

Trees are a key climate crisis mitigation tool by providing better public health via oxygen production, reducing air pollution, and stress and “heat islands” resulting from concrete and steel.

Trees can help with stormwater mitigation, provide nature in the city such as wildlife habitat, make neighborhoods more walkable, increase the connection of communities, and provide so much beauty. 

If you’d like to plant new trees, PP&R Urban Forestry leads efforts to improve and expand Portland’s urban forest, especially in low income and low-canopy neighborhoods like north and east Portland. Efforts include free trees for Portlanders during Yard Tree Giveaway events, free street tree planting in the neighborhoods that need them most, and more. See City of Portland Tree Planting for info on these and other tree planting resources.