City officials bring Arbor Day celebration to outer East Portland

Find out which school in the David Douglas School District was selected – and why – in this story, with exclusive photos …

Students attending West Powellhurst Elementary School get their very own tree from Portland Arts & Recreation botanical specialist Dan Franek, at the Arbor Day Celebration held at the school.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The fact that Portland was, for the 33rd year, recognized as one of 49 Oregon cities designated “Tree City USA” was celebrated by the students and teachers at West Powellhurst Elementary School at 2921 SE 116th Avenue, in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood.

“It’s important to celebrate Arbor Day,” said David McAllister, City Forester with Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), “because these kids are the key to our future. If you want to have a city filled with adults loving trees, you start with kids loving trees. This is a great opportunity to teach kids about trees, and give them the opportunity to understand why trees are important.”

Classes were offered about trees to the students, during the days before this event, but more than that, McAllister told us it’s important to the young people to get hands-on experience. “We want them to grow up being willing and able to participate in the stewardship of trees.”

David McAllister, City Forester with Portland Parks & Recreation, welcomes the students and staff of West Powellhurst Elementary School to the Arbor Day celebration assembly.

Installing a ‘Learning Landscape’
Vamping while awaiting the arrival of officials, McAllister told the students at a school-wide assembly, “We’re glad to have your help installing a ‘Learning Landscape’ here at your school. You’ll enjoy it as students. And, as you grow up, you’ll be able to bring your children here to enjoy them.”

This is the first of the 13 Learning Landscapes to be creating at a school in the David Douglas School District, added McAllister. “By studying and taking care of these trees, when you grow up, you’ll know how to take care of trees – a really beautiful part of our City of Portland.”

-3 Zari Santner, PP&R’s Bureau Chief, arrived at the school assembly with Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish. “Trees are very important because they keep our air clean, and keep our water clean, too. And, they’re also so beautiful to look at, aren’t they?”

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish awaits his turn to speak to the students, and to offer the opportunity for them to become Honorary Park Rangers.

Fish swears in Honorary Park Rangers
Zari Santner, PP&R’s Bureau Chief, arrived at the school assembly with Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish. “Trees are very important because they keep our air clean, and keep our water clean, too. And, they’re also so beautiful to look at, aren’t they?”

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish began by thanking the teachers for helping their students learn about trees.

“We have a lot of trees in Portland,” Fish told the assembly. “We need your help to maintain them. Will you help me?  Then everyone stand up.  One of the things that I get to do, is I get to swear in Honorary Park Rangers.”

Principal Allen Browning tells his students to remember their “Wildcat Pride” when playing around the newly-planted trees.

West Powellhurst Elementary School’s Principal, Allen Browning, assured Fish, “We’ll take good care of these trees.” He admonished the students, “It’s a big responsibility. We need to make sure that we’re showing ‘Wildcat Pride’ every day, when we’re out on the playground near these trees. We want to share this gift with our families. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the trees.”

Here, showing off the City of Portland’s “Tree City USA” banner, are Dick Pugh of the Urban Forestry Commission; Joe Poracsky, Professor of Geography at Portland State University; Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish; Kristin Ramstad, from the Oregon Department of Forestry; PP&R Director Zari; and PP&R City Forester Dave McAllister.

Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association’s President, Mark White, takes in the Arbor Day celebration assembly.

“It was kind of a surprise that this is the first Arbor Day celebration we’ve had here in the David Douglas School District,” said Mark White, President of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association.

“And, to hold this celebration, and install a Learning Landscape here, is a tremendous honor,” White told us. “About 40% of all the elementary school kids in the City of Portland live in East Portland. For me, just being in the room with all the kids; it really it makes me feel like everything that I do is worthwhile.”

Many little hands helped out the PP&R workers as they planted trees at the Portland City Park just north of their school.

Fun in the dirt: kids plant trees
Each class was assigned to a PP&R tree-planting crew, Browning said as the kids filed out to the playground area, and City Park, just north of the school.

Principal Browning smiled, as he watched the kids learn about tree planting and help out with the process. “To have these trees planted will help make this feel more like a real city park,” Browning said. “It helps to build a sense of community here. We want members of the community to feel welcome here, and to gain a positive connection with our school.”

Portland City Commissioner, and Commissioner in charge of the Parks Bureau, Nick Fish watches – as a new white oak tree, held by PP&R arborist Charles McCreary, is prepared for planting.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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