Tree Planted in Portland Dead Due to No Watering Service

The Portland Bureau of Transportation took the initiative to plant trees but they failed to come up with a maintenance plan to keep the trees alive.

About two years ago, Portland officials decided to plant 30 saplings in a grassy triangle in the East Portland neighborhood of Mill Park. Some of the trees planted included Douglas firs, Japanese maples and redwoods.

The city hired a contractor to do the planting and the process took about a year to finish. They were instructed to water the trees for the next calendar year, filling green bags around the bases of the trees with 15 to 20 gallons of water every week.

The city’s contract with that contractor ended on March 31, 2023, and PBOT, the owner of the triangle, was in charge of maintaining the new trees. Trouble began when the bureau confessed to not watering the trees and now some of them will have to be ripped out since they are dead or dying from a lack of hydration.

“It’s a big disappointment, but not surprising,” Ray Johnson, a resident in the area, said. “I can’t help but think that if these trees had been planted in a more affluent part of the city, say the West Hills, they wouldn’t have forgotten to water them.”

Schafer said watering trees is not part of the bureau’s duties: “We only trim trees for visibility and clear brush. We simply are not set up for nor have the skills for tree maintenance beyond that.”

Vivek Shandas, who maps heat islands in Portland, said that the deaths in East Portland that summer is to be expected. “We had so much evidence to show this was a likely outcome,” Shandas said. “Without direct mitigation of these places that are often 15, 20 degrees hotter, we’re going to continue seeing people die.”

PBOT’s negligence with the tree water is the second time this year that authorities have failed to protect the trees. The state has been cutting down 570 trees lining the road. “We care very much about adding trees where we can in our projects to help combat the heat island effect, especially in neighborhoods in East Portland where that issue is so prevalent,” Schafer said.

For the trees in the triangular island that need to be replaced, it won’t happen until next spring. Until then, PBOT is “working with Portland Parks & Recreation’s Urban Forestry team to evaluate potential options around caring for these trees.”

Source: https://www.wweek.com/news/2023/08/09/trees-planted-by-the-city-in-east-portland-two-years-ago-are-dead-because-the-city-didnt-water-them/