Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tree City, but whose trees?

Tree City USA

In 2014, Lake Oswego celebrates its 25th year as a Tree City USA (TCUSA)! TCUSA is a certification provided by the National Arbor Day Foundation to recognize cities for demonstrating a strong commitment to managing and caring for trees. Over the last 25 years, Lake Oswego has met the four TCUSA standards by maintaining a tree board, a tree ordinance, a minimum $2 per capita expenditure for tree planting and maintenance, and an annual celebration and proclamation of Arbor Day. There are currently 56 TCUSA communities throughout Oregon. Visit www.arborday.org/programs/treecityusa/ to learn more.

Did you notice what minimal standards there are to be a Tree City USA?  Only 56 cities in the country have bothered to expend staff time and financial resources on maintaining this program.  There is no practical value here and it isn't a core city service.   The real question is, why do we bother?  

The next Lake Oswego Arbor Day workshop is "Right Tree, Right Place" on October 16, 6-7:30 pm 

If citizens want the education the city provides, this might something Natural Resources Advisory Board or others can take on with help from Master Gardeners and other volunteer and education groups, making this a true community event!  It would be nice to see the city get out of the plant and tree advice business.

Free Resources:  
"TreeTalk" podcasts available from the State's Urban Forestry Program (includes "Right tree, right place," "Tree topping" and more.)
"Selecting, Planting and Caring for a New Tree" from Oregon State Extension Service EC1438
"An Oregon Homeowner's Guide to Tree Care"  from  Oregon Department of Forestry
"Trees Are The Answer"  by JF Schmidt - a reference guide to tree selection with dozens of links to authoritative resources - the place a serious tree and plant lover should know about
"Water Efficient Plants for the Willamette Valley"  online book by various government agencies and available at Regional Water Providers Consortium
Oregon State University Landscape Plants - list of plants with pictures and plant information
"Growing Tree Fruit and Nuts in the Home Orchard" from OSU Extension Service EC819

"Celebrating" trees is something Lake Oswegans do every day.  Without the help of the city, the city tree code or tree nazis, the city tree canopy today is probably twice what it was in 1950.  People like trees, and trees add value to real estate.

Tree nazis are people who:
  • covet someone else's trees and want the state to control what they cannot
  • make rules for what others can and can't do with their trees
  • make up new definitions for what a tree stump (or other terms) is to suit their goals
  • spy on neighbors looking for infractions and then report them to government authorities for punishment
  • city enforcers, backed by the police, ready to spring into action to fine people for daring to make changes their landscape without asking some bureaucrat in city hall first.   (I hope no one out there is even thinking about topping their trees or treating them poorly!)
1.  Change the tree code.  Throw the whole thing out and start over - it can't be fixed.
Our tree code was one of the top dislikes for citizens in the 2012 citizen attitude survey.  Consider Oregon City tree code as a model for Lake Oswego. There are other tree codes related to property development, but no codes that regulate privately owned trees.  (If anyone checks this information and finds an error, please let me know.) 

2.  Get rid of TCUSA.   Citizen groups can celebrate anything that doesn't involve city resources or private property rights.

From Oregon City website:
Street Tree Permits are free.
City code requires owners to care for street trees in the planter strip abutting their property.  A diseased or hazardous street tree, as determined by a registered arborist and verified by the City, may be removed if replaced. A permit is required to remove a street tree.

17.04.1415 - Tree, (or Grove) regulated.
"Regulated Tree or Grove" means trees and groves located on development properties undergoing land use review which are subject to the tree protection provisions of Chapter 17.41 of the city zoning code. Street trees, buffer trees, and parking lot trees of any size, as well as Heritage trees and groves, may fall under the general category of "regulated" or protected trees.

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