‘Free Tree’ program takes root in Lents

See how this year’s Portland Parks & Recreation ‘Tree Give-away’ went in the Lents neighborhood

Even during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of outer East Portland homes will be benefitting from new trees in their yards, supplied by Portland Parks’ “Tree Giveaway” program.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The pandemic didn’t stop 350 trees from finding new “forever homes”, as East Portland residents came to pick them up at Lents Park on October 10, during the Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) “Tree Give-away”.

Several of the folks coming to pick up trees told us they’d learned of this program through our East Portland News article published in September. [CLICK HERE to review that article.]

PP&R Youth Conservation Crew member Haley Majors spends a moment with PP&R Urban Forestry Science Outreach and Planting Manager Angie DiSalvo.

“During the fourth season of these tree giveaways, citywide, we are giving away [a total of] about 1,200 trees, with 350 trees here  on the edge of Lents Park!” said PP&R Urban Forestry Science Outreach and Planting Manager Angie DiSalvo. “It’s a good way to get trees into people’s yards; we know that two-thirds of the available space for planting trees is actually on private property.

Powellhurst-Gilbert neighbor, Alexander Maso, says he’s very happy to be taking home a new tree, as he loads it into his vehicle.

“With this program, residents get high-quality, excellent trees that are drought-tolerant, low-maintenance. and perfect for yards – straight from our arborists into people’s yards,” DiSalvo said with a smile under her mask.

But, due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, this year’s tree giveaways have been quite different, she said. “These are no-contact events; that is, everyone has pre-registered, had an assessment with an arborist in advance, and then must do a drive-through pick-up – a quick in-and-out in about five minutes.”

While maintaining a safe social distance, checking in tree recipients is PP&R Community Service Aid II Jorge Chavez-Florez.

We watched as, one by one, tree recipients were checked in, and then their information was relayed to other PP&R workers down the line, via walkie-talkie.

Those workers took the tree(s) from their inventory, along with a bucket or two of mulch, and set it alongside the lane. The recipients stopped to the trees in their vehicles along with the mulch, and then drove away, all in a matter of moments.

Loading up a SUV with their new tree are Nick Harwanko and Francesca Veltran.

“So, it’s not the same ‘event’ we’ve held in the past, with lots of volunteers and live planting demonstrations; but, with Parks Bureau staff and Youth Crew members helping out, it’s still running smoothly,” DiSalvo pointed out.

Also this year, for people who have space for a tree but have limited mobility or no transportation, staffers were transporting trees. “We’re delivering about 200 trees primarily to the Hazelwood and Mill Park neighborhoods – areas that are tree-deficient,” DiSalvo remarked.

“We hope to distribute even more trees next year,” DiSalvo said, as she headed off to assist another resident in becoming a new tree owner.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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