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Cedar Mill News
Volume 7, Issue 2


February 2009

Time to start saving trees?

Unlike many other jurisdictions in the Portland Metropolitan area, Washington County does not have in place a comprehensive Urban Forest Management Plan or a tree code. As a result, there are few protections in place for Washington County trees and for preserving the urban tree canopy.

A group of concerned citizens wanted to know what could be done when they responded to a notice in the Citizen Participation Organization (CPO) newsletter in the summer of 2007.

Clear cut from fall, 2008 in Phase II of the JLS development, on West Haven Street (near Catlin Gabel). Trees left standing on the margins of these areas often topple in high winds from lack of support.

Elaine Rank, a member of CPO4K, had approached Patt Opdyke, OSU Extension Service CPO coordinator, earlier that spring to see if a group could be formed to investigate whether tree protections could be put in place at the county level. Ms. Rank was alarmed at how quickly her neighborhood was changing as large developments went in and all the mature, native trees were removed. Ms. Opdyke placed a notice in the CPO newsletter seeing if there was interest.

Ken Cone, co-chair of CPO3, saw the notice in the newsletter. He had tried to protect a large stand of firs next to his property in the Raleigh Hills area, but lost after a hard fight. Developers ignored the community appeals to leave at least some of the trees. Elena Frank, secretary of CPO3, also responded to the notice.

Erik Mace and Elizabeth Bowers, both of CPO1, were horrified at the clear cutting that happened in several locations in the West Haven neighborhood and along Cornell Road where the land was completely scraped prior to development. They answered the notice as well.

Sixteen people representing all of the major urban CPOs attended the first meeting held in December 2007. At this first meeting, the group shared their alarm at the rapid loss of tree canopy and how it was drastically changing the sense of livability and community in their neighborhoods. They also shared their frustration about their inability to “do anything” when there were trees or groves of trees that the neighbors felt important to be preserved.

Now after a year’s work of research into what other communities are doing locally and across the country in protecting trees and rebuilding their tree canopies, the group is optimistic that an effective tree code and urban forest management plan is possible. “We aren’t going to have to reinvent the wheel in getting a tree code in place for our County,” says Ms. Bowers. “Other communities have done the heavy lifting to determine what works and doesn’t work in tree protections. Some of the tree codes are very creative and nicely balance community interests and developer needs.”

In September 2008 The Joint CPO Tree Code Group presented its draft recommendations for an urban forest management plan and supporting code to Kathy Lehtola, head of the County’s Department of Land Use and Transportation (DLUT), and Nadine Smith, Principal Planner for DLUT. Then during the next three months, the Tree Code Group members presented the same recommendations at each of the active urban CPOs and requested letters of support to the Board of County Commissioners. You can find the results of their research, recommendations, the economic value of trees, and other interesting links at their website www.washcotreegroup.org.

The Tree Code Group is asking to get on the County’s 2009 Work Program as a Tier 1 item. The next step is to get a decision by the Board of County Commissioners as to whether their request will be part of the County’s Work Program. You can follow the group’s progress at their website.

CPO 1 (Cedar Mill/Cedar Hills) will vote on a letter endorsing the Tree Code Group’s recommendations at the February 3 meeting—see cpo1friends.org.




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Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291