Portland has long had a reputation as a city blessed by an abundance of trees, having acquired the nickname "Forest City" during the 19th Century. Unfortunately, the city's tree population suffered over the years from disease, depletion, and stress from an increasingly urban environment. Renewing and increasing the city's tree inventory provides both aesthetic and environmental benefits to the city's neighborhoods. Adding new trees helps protect our watersheds, reduces storm water runoff, combats air pollution and helps counteract global warming. One mature tree removes 700 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere each year.
Existing Conditions of Urban Forest
It is no easy job to be a tree in the city!
Poor soils, invasive asphalt, road salt, exhaust fumes, minuscule growing areas; all of these conditions add stress to a tree's daily existence. These factors provide a challenge to those responsible for managing the urban forest. They have to look for species that are tolerant of harsh urban conditions. They also have to nurture the trees through watering, pruning, fertilizing, and loving attention. Even with such attention, urban trees sometimes have a shortened life cycle and have to be removed and replaced.
Depleting Tree Inventory
Portland's urban forest remains a significant feature of our city landscape. However, the city's tree inventory has suffered from its peak condition in the early 1960s. It was at that time that the northeast suffered from the outbreak of Dutch Elm Disease, a tree that both graced and dominated Portland's neighborhood streets, especially on the peninsula. Records state that nearly 20,000 elms were lost in Portland during this period. In the 1970s and '80s, federal and state programs helped the city replant much of the in-town areas with new tree types. These trees have obviously not yet reached the level of maturity and growth of the trees they replaced. maintenance and planting efforts conducted by the city's Forestry Division.
In addition to the city's program, the committee reviewed recent private initiatives to benefit Portland's trees, including the Oakhurst Tree Challenge and the Portland Rotary Club's tree recognition program. It also reviewed efforts in other communities throughout the US and Canada to promote and sustain urban forestry revitalization and looked at funding options that could sustain a permanent, lasting tree endowment fund.
Presently the areas of greatest need for tree plantings are located west of I-295:
Major roadways including: Congress Street, Brighton Avenue, Forest Avenue, Washington Avenue, Auburn Street, Riverside Street, Ocean Avenue, Walton Street, Reed Street, Capisic Street, Veranda Street, Woodfords Street, Stevens Avenue.
Although not an exhaustive list, these streets represent the areas of greatest need, in large measure because of the high volume of traffic they experience. Trees provide relief from road noise and exhaust pollution. In addition, trees frame the road, giving it a smaller visual appearance. This has been documented to "calm" traffic conditions, encouraging drivers to reduce driving speed.
All of the off-peninsula neighborhoods are in need of replanting or additional plantings. For example, the following areas all have many vacant tree planting sites in the public right of way: East Deering, Ocean Avenue, Clifton Street, USM, Oakdale, Deering Highlands, Deering Center, streets off of Brighton Avenue between Douglas and Stevens, and North Deering.
Parks & Public Grounds
The master plans for Deering Oaks, Payson Park, Evergreen Cemetery and Baxter Boulevard all identify needs for replanting. School grounds are also in need of new plantings.