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Parks Levy Allows PP&R to Perform Proactive Park Tree Maintenance

News Article
Parks Bureau begins work to improve park tree health and extend their lives, thanks to Portland voters.
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(Portland, OR) – 

For the first time in the City’s history and thanks to the 2020 Parks Local Option Levy (Parks Levy), Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) has the resources to proactively care for trees in City parks and natural areas. Trees work hard for our community – they clean Portland’s air, keep neighborhoods cool, green our parks, improve our mental and physical well-being, and so much more. PP&R’s proactive work to care for our community’s trees will help extend their lives and the positive impacts they provide for all of us.  

A Portland Parks & Recreation arborist trims trees in the South Park Blocks. It is an overcast day, and the worker is wearing a bright green top and safety equipment, using a chainsaw to cut a branch as he is stationed in a bucket lift, leaning left to right.
A Portland Parks & Recreation arborist trims trees in the North Park Blocks. The Parks Local Option Levy, approved by voters in 2020, has provided funding that allows the Bureau to proactively care for trees in parks and natural areas for the first time.

Work began in October 2022 when PP&R’s Urban Forestry team treated over 70 park trees in four city parks: North Park Blocks, John Luby Park, George Himes Park, and Pettygrove Park. 

“Prior to voters approving the Parks Levy, Portland Parks & Recreation never had the funds to proactively maintain and care for trees in Portland’s parks and green spaces,” noted Portland Parks Commissioner Dan Ryan. “The bureau’s work was limited by capacity and resources to only reactive work. Now, for the first time in the City’s history, trained, professional, experienced PP&R arborists are working on preserving and maintaining the City’s tree canopy in Portland’s parks and natural areas. They have my thanks and admiration!”  

WHAT: The first proactive park and natural area tree maintenance work in the Portland Parks & Recreation system, made possible by the 2020 Parks Local Option Levy. 

WHEN: Ongoing now, through mid-2023 as an interim phase, in one park each month. More comprehensive proactive park tree maintenance efforts are expected to start in late 2023. 

WHERE: Sites citywide determined via criteria including equity and tree health assessments.  

WHY: Improving public health; helping prevent failures and tree diseases, enhancing the health of trees in parks and natural areas and preserving the urban canopy.  

“We are proud that our PP&R staff are dedicated to this important work,” said Portland Parks & Recreation Director Adena Long. “Proactive tree maintenance will enhance public safety, the health of our city’s trees, wildlife habitat, and work towards mitigating the effects of climate change.” 

Portland Parks & Recreation continues to ramp up staffing in the Urban Forestry department (and many others) to deliver on Parks Levy-funded projects such as this. This work aligns with the Parks Levy commitment stated in the November 2020 Voter Pamphlet to, “Protect Portland’s 1.2 million park trees by performing proactive maintenance, safety checks, hazard removal, and replacement of damaged trees in parks and natural areas.” PP&R’s proactive tree maintenance includes structural pruning and canopy lifting to increase public safety and enhance wildlife habitat and improve tree health. 

PP&R Urban Forestry teams will continue to respond to tree-related emergencies on public land and those blocking public rights-of-way (common during severe weather).  

In addition to the City’s proactive work, free educational and volunteer opportunities abound for neighbors to plant trees, become neighborhood tree stewards, attend tree care workshops and events, participate in outreach, and many other endeavors. For more information, please visit portland.gov/trees/get-involved    

ABOUT THE 2020 PARKS LOCAL OPTION LEVY 

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) worked to deliver on key voter commitments in the first year of the five-year Parks Local Option Levy (Parks Levy). Thanks to Parks Levy funds, PP&R kept community centers and pools open, served about 875,000 program participants, and increased the maintenance of parks, natural areas, and PP&R facilities in Portland. 

The Parks Levy also allowed PP&R to grow as an organization, hiring 1,416 full-time, part-time, seasonal, and casual staff in the fiscal year 2021-22. With Parks Levy funding, the Bureau added 142 new full-time equivalent positions and restored hundreds of jobs. PP&R now has more than 2,000 full-time and part-time employees. Thanks to this increased capacity, PP&R was better able to meet the program and service needs of Portlanders.  

PP&R also planted 1,467 trees in neighborhoods designated as priority areas, an 81 percent increase from the prior year. 

The Parks Levy is a five-year levy. Year 1 ended June 30, 2022, and established the foundation needed to meet the commitments made to voters. PP&R is continuing significant recruitment and hiring for Parks Levy-funded positions, purchasing additional equipment, and allocating new workspaces. 

More info is at Portland.gov/parks/parks-levy  

The 2021-22 Parks Levy Annual Report is available at portland.gov/parks/parks-levy#toc-annual-reports  

Portland Parks & Recreation’s Urban Forestry Department

The mission of PP&R’s Urban Forestry department is to manage and care for Portland's forest infrastructure in the city, for current and future generations. Our urban forest consists of 220,000 street trees, 1.2 million park trees, and about 2.9 million private property trees. Urban Forestry is involved in managing or regulating these trees to differing degrees – creating and implementing the City's Urban Forest Management Plan, fostering community tree awareness and stewardship, developing tree policies and programs, monitoring and assessing the urban forest, issuing permits for planting, pruning, and removal of public and some private trees, and responding to tree emergencies. 

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