This playground at Couch Park is a frequent stop for us on our daily rounds. It’s great to be able to play in such a beautiful setting. What makes it beautiful? The trees of course. Do you agree? Now look at this next playground.
Given a choice, where would you play?
Thanks to the vision and hard work combined in a successful partnership between Portland Parks & Recreation and Portland Public Schools, Vernon School’s playground over time will become greener, shadier and more beautiful — if you agree with me that beauty has a lot to do with trees — made complete with the addition of childrens’ vibrant energy and playful voices.
On Friday Nov 1st, I was invited to attend a short ceremony and tree planting event that was a culmination of an educational project involving training 6th graders at NE Portland’s Vernon school in the biological function and benefits of trees. These 6th graders in turn worked with the school’s 1st and 2nd graders to plant 9 new trees on the grounds of their school. In addition, 7 new street trees were planted at the school, and new logs were placed on the grounds to be used as natural benches as part of Portland Parks & Recreation Community Wood ReUse Plan.
City of Portland Urban Forester Jenn Cairo and Vernon School Principal Tina Ackers opened the ceremony and and 6th graders read a Mayoral Proclamation of the start of the 2013-2014 tree planting season.
Excitement among the students mounted.
And the planting began. Students worked together to carefully lower each tree’s rootball into the planting holes and took turns backfilling the soil.
Home for three new Oregon white oaks, Quercus garryana. This one is ready to be mulched and watered in.
I loved this event — not only were new trees added to the grounds of a school but the students themselves participated in the work, learning about and caring for the new trees that are now part of their community. Isn’t it true that we learn to love that which is familiar to us? Familiarity comes through introduction and study but most importantly through hands-on engagement. This project recognizes the connection that creates ownership and the potential to nurture this sense of pride and stewardship outward into the individual lives and futures of these young citizens.
I chatted a few minutes with one Portland Parks & Recreation Youth Conservation Crew member who helped lead the tree planting. I noted his quiet yet affirming guidance of the student tree planters, fully allowing them to complete the work. He told me he was once a troubled and struggling high school student who was urged to apply for a position in this summer program by his school guidance counselor. He was hooked by his experience caring for trees and smiled as he talked about his plans to get further training as an arborist in a local degree program.
What a great way to recognize the start of the tree planting season in Portland. Projects designed to improve our community, bring people together, and expand our urban forest can carry us through the damp and grey months ahead. If you feel inspired by this story, please check out the Portland Parks & Recreation information on their Neighborhood Tree Steward Program for volunteer opportunities throughout the year.