Getting to Know Urban Forestry's Free Street Tree Program

News Article
two street trees with stakes
Learn about the Free Street Tree Program and where will we be planting next.

Planting 1,100 New Street Trees

The Free Street Tree Program will plant about 1,100 trees throughout various Portland neighborhoods in the 2023-2024 planting season! This program aims to plant new street trees in the public right-of-way, the space between the curb and the sidewalk, in priority neighborhoods where they are needed most. This winter, free street trees will be planted in the East Columbia, Humboldt, Montavilla, Overlook, Piedmont, Powellhurst-Gilbert, and Woodlawn neighborhoods. 

Portland’s tree planting strategy (Growing a More Equitable Urban Forest) defines priority planting neighborhoods as having low canopy, higher percentages of communities of color, and people living with lower incomes. These neighborhoods historically lack tree coverage due to inequitable planning practices and have several barriers to getting access to more trees. 

About the Process

Preparing for a planting season can take up to a whole year, from surveying neighborhoods for the best available planting spaces to staking a newly planted tree. First, our staff survey neighborhoods for available planting space and consider existing infrastructure such as safety signs, hydrants, and underground utilities. Then, adjacent property owners are notified of their eligibility to receive free street trees. No action is required to receive free street trees. However, property owners are given the option to decline or ‘opt out’ of the free street trees, if they do not wish to receive them. Only adjacent property owners who receive a notification letter are eligible. Contractors then plant carefully selected trees and provide three years of watering, weeding, and mulching. There is no cost to tree recipients.  

Tree species planted through the Free Street Tree Program are selected to be low maintenance and drought tolerant, maximizing the benefits trees provide while minimizing infrastructure conflicts. Species selection is based on the City’s Approved Street Tree Planting Lists. Some of our staff favorites include Oregon white oak, Southern live oak, incense cedar, and Chinese pistache. 

A Different Approach

There are many ways to plant trees and this ‘opt-out’ method is one of them! At times, requiring a sign-up can be a barrier to planting a publicly owned street tree. Many people don’t feel strongly enough about wanting trees to complete a sign-up process. Others may not have time or resources to seek out planting help and may not be aware of how to get trees planted. This program also makes the planting process easy for multi-family and rental properties. 

This year, we are excited to continue partnering with two previous contractors and to bring on three new contractors to continue to build on our planting capacity. Contractors will work year-round to plant and maintain these trees and we could not do this work without them. 

Read more here about this planting program and others and to find more information on other City-sponsored ways to plant trees. 


City of Portland Urban Forestry

Manager of Portland's urban forest