We Portlanders take great pride in our trees. But a good deal of our arboreal splendor wouldn’t be here without Friends of Trees, a nonprofit that has planted and cared for trees around the city since 1989. Last year alone, FOT planted more than 40,000 new trees, and since its inception some 62,000 volunteers have helped plant at least half a million.
The effects? Trees improve our air, water, and soil; they increase property values; and their shade cuts down on carbon emissions by around 30 percent. But really, it’s about much more than that lovely green canopy. “Yes, we plant trees,” says executive director Scott Fogarty, “but we’re really a community-building organization.”
The act of planting a tree, he says, is a tangible way to make an impact on the community and leaves a legacy that literally grows over time. Anyone who desires such a legacy can purchase a tree directly from the nonprofit, and—after a site visit and approval from the city—a cheery group of volunteers will show up to do the dirty work on your neighborhood’s annual planting day. Tree-planting days take place all over the east side from November to April and involve up to 250 volunteers. “People come out on a rainy Saturday and get muddy with their friends, and get to feel a real sense of camaraderie with their community,” says Fogarty.
Friends of Trees’ range of planting programs now stretches from Vancouver to Eugene, and with expanding projects like restoring salmon habitat along the Sandy River and planting trees along ODOT rights-of-way, this little organization is making a big impact that continues to grow before our eyes.