‘Party on the Path’ celebrates massive multi-year tree planting effort

See why they were commemorating saplings, planted along I-205 …

The Friends of Trees mascot welcomes folks to the “Party on the Path”, celebrating the conclusion of the tree planting project along the I-205 Multi-Use Path.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
On the hot summer afternoon of the celebration, Wednesday, July 24, the new saplings planted along the I-205 Multi-Use Path provided little shade.

But, in a decade or so, those riding bikes along this major north-south corridor will marvel at the trees that line this freeway-side bikeway.

The Fellow Travelers Band entertains revelers during the “Party on the Path”.

For the first time ever, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) partnered with Metro, the regional government, and with the nonprofit Friends of Trees – to undertake the massive project that got underway on January 9, 2010.

> To read about this event, and see photos of the first trees planted, CLICK HERE.

Three years later, thousands of volunteers had planted 5,000 new trees and shrubs in outer East Portland, from the NE Airport Way area southward past the Multnomah County line.

> See the story, “‘Tree Friends’ wrap the I-205 Multi-Use Path project”: CLICK HERE.

At the “Party on the Path” held in the Lents Neighborhood, the involved organizations and volunteers gathered to celebrate their achievement.

ODOT Region 1 Community Affairs Manager Shelli Romero and ODOT Region 1 Manager Jason Tell are on hand to help celebrate the tree planting project’s completion.

Working on a one-off project, years ago in North Portland’s Delta Park, ODOT Region 1 Manager Jason Tell said he met Friends of Trees’ Executive Director Scott Fogarty. “We had such a great experience with the community, we started talking about other ‘greening’ opportunities. That, in part, led to this project.”

ODOT considers the I-205 Multi-Use Path to be a very important part of transportation infrastructure, Tell told East Portland News. He encouraged Fogarty to submit a grant application to Metro. Shortly afterward, Metro announced its biggest Metro Nature in Neighborhoods Capital Grants funding to date: $410,000, for a multi-year project to plant trees along the I-205 Multiuse Path.

Organizers and volunteers mingle and dine, as they celebrate the completion of the tree-planting project.

“It connects a lot of communities,” remarked Tell. “And, it is a way for people to get to public transit, to walk, and to ride bikes. When looking at ways to improve the path, we considered the adjacent land. We got connected up with Friends of Trees, and talked about the concept of greening the corridor.

“Now we have 5,000 more trees and shrubs in the region that were not there before.  And we have lots of volunteers out here in the community involved in making the path.

Former Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, David Cohen of the Intertwine Alliance, and Friends of Trees Executive Director Scott Fogarty, together at the “Party on the Path”.

This is an important greening project for several reasons, explained Friends of Trees Executive Director Scott Fogarty. “It’s along the freeway, the #1 source of air pollution in our state; and having a greenway to buffer the neighborhoods is a very positive thing.”

As the trees grow larger, Fogarty commented, “they will provide environmental and economic benefits to the neighborhoods. Also, we hope to inspire leaders in the various departments of transportation and municipalities to consider ‘green infrastructure’ when they are doing major transportation projects.”

After reviewing the sign-up sheets, Fogarty said that he, himself, was amazed at the number of volunteers who came out for the project over the years. “I think the number of volunteers has been revised to about 3,000 volunteers. And we’ve had lots of corporate support as well.”

To help the new trees and shrubs survive the hot summer months, Fogarty said, the nonprofit Verde NW is providing maintenance and watering.

Event MCs Chris Day and Logan Lauvray of Friends of Trees welcome the officials who are about to speak at the celebration.

One of the volunteers who planted trees, former Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, spoke to the assembled group during the party.

“I only wish that I could ‘fast forward’ 20 years and enjoy the experience of riding along a shady, green corridor of native plants where today there is just the sun-blasted grass, with the promise of saplings,” Burkholder remarked.

Outer East Portland bicycle advocate Jim Chasse and former Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder listen, as other officials speak.

Bicycle advocate, and volunteer with the East Portland Action Plan, Jim Chasse told East Portland News he was happy to volunteer on the project.

“This is the only North-South transportation facility that is a low-stress bikeway between Gladstone and the northern Oregon border,” commented Chasse. “Some people enjoy this path for recreational bike riding. But for me, as a full-time bicyclist, it’s a great transportation facility, and all the trees make it better.”

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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