Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Managing Trees, Stormwater and Hunger in the City

As I mentioned in a recent post, I recently participated in a community tree planting effort. The mass planting took place on the 13th of March, and was hosted by Friends of Trees, a non-profit group that seeks to revitalize urban environments through planting trees in urban neighborhoods.

This mass planting was part of a larger effort by the City of Portland, known as the “Gray to Green Initiative,” an effort to reduce City stormwater runoff and associated sewage infrastructure costs by the use of natural, living methods. This is an important priority for the City government, which has faced both regulatory requirements and fines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because of inadequate treatment of sewage flows into the Willamette River. The regulatory requirements and lack of adequate treatment led to the “Big Pipe” project and other recent sewage infrastructure modernization efforts.

But the City's Bureau of Environmental Services realizes that technology-heavy infrastructure upgrades are expensive, and that sooner or later the capacity of even an upgraded sewage system can be exceeded through population growth, aging infrastructure and continued urban construction. Thus they have begun to promote living, natural methods of reducing stormwater runoff, and resulting sewage overflows. These living, natural methods include tree plantings and “eco-roofs” – living, literally green roofs whose plants intercept stormwater before it can flow into City gutters and storm drains. The promotion of natural, living methods of dealing with stormwater runoff and sewage will become increasingly important in the near future, as cities lose tax revenue and the ability to maintain expensive sewage treatment systems due to our ongoing economic collapse.

As far as the planting day went, I had a lot of fun. It was a good experience for neighbors to meet each other in the process of doing something that benefited the common good. Also, Friends of Trees were able to address not only stormwater issues, but the issue of local, community-based food production, as this year they began offering low-cost fruit and nut trees to interested homeowners. (I got my very own apple tree!) The fruit trees were so popular that most of them sold out long before the planting day.

For those who want to see what a planting day looks like, I also shot some video of the event, which can be found on Vimeo under this link. Or you can watch it here:

Managing Trees, Stormwater and Hunger in the City from TH in SoC on Vimeo.

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