Ruckus Warehouse Sale

Guest editorial: Planting trees by bike

Posted by on December 28th, 2009 at 1:51 pm

“….[Without a bike trailer] it would have been several times as much work to get 3 dozen trees, several hundred pounds of mulch, wood stakes, and several gallons of water to the entire 1/4 mile planting area.”

[This article was written by contributor Aaron Tarfman.]

On Saturday I went out to be a part of the Friends of Trees planting event along the I-205 path. The staging area was near the top of the hill by SE Alder St & SE 94th Ave.

I’ve volunteered with this group several times before and I appreciate the work that they do. I was also a little disturbed by some comments about the event made on BikePortland, and it was my hope to make a more positive impression. I don’t always have success with showing people the wisdom of human powered transportation, but it was worth bringing the trailer out to give it a try.

As soon as I arrived, I met with Friends of Trees’ Andy Meeks, whose face lit up like a Christmas tree when he saw that I’d brought my superlong-schlepper.

Aaron Tarfman, his trailer, and “the wisdom of human powered transportation”.
(Photos: Toshio Suzuki)

Andy had plenty of volunteers, but it would have been several times as much work to get 3 dozen trees, several hundred pounds of mulch, wood stakes, and several gallons of water to the entire 1/4 mile planting area. So after signing in I immediately got to work with him to get the right trees to the most distant planting location (which was luckily downhill). Once the trees were delivered I brought down stakes, and then began filling a wheelbarrow with mulch and carrying that down. The last task was to get water from the fire hydrant near 94th down to the farthest trees.

New trees, with I-205 path along the right.

One of the folks there asked me how I felt about some of the disparaging comments made about the tree planting and I told him that I appreciate everyone who makes a significant effort to support ecological awareness. Some people do this by eating vegetarian/vegan, some do it by bike commuting, and some do it by planting hundreds of trees. But we’re all helping in some way. It really helped that the trees were evergreens and they were being planted at least 10 feet from the path, so tree roots, and falling leaves were not going to be an issue.

All in all I was thrilled to be a part of this and to have made the volunteers’ day more cheerful and less strenuous.

Friends of Trees will be doing another tree planting along the I-205 path on January 9th. The event starts at 9am until 1pm. The staging area will be at NE Marine Dr and NE 112th Ave. Contact Andy Meeks at or 503-282-8846 x24 for more information.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Patty December 28, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I hope ODOT funded the planting – they should do a much better job of planting many of their freeway and highway corridors. Hwy. 26 isn’t bad, but the other urban ones are pretty awful – think of all the habitat and air-filtering they could accomplish! Thanks to Aaron for making it so fossil-fuel-less. I like to do those plantings, and I think even using some cars (we usually carpool) it’s a long-term benefit, but this way it is even more so!

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  • Toshio December 28, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for the post and for coming to the planting, Aaron.
    Actually, a Metro grant stemming from a 2006 voter-approved bond measure is funding the plantings on ODOT land.
    Friends of Trees volunteers also plant in neighborhoods via bicycle:
    Watch videos:

    There is more information available at the Friends of Trees blog, Growth Rings.

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  • Timbo December 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    I can’t find the negative remarks on BikePortland. Did I miss something?

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  • Memo December 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I was also confused number three…Aaron would you please highlight the offending remarks and provide an explanation?

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  • q`Tzal December 28, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    We appreciate we efforts of Friends of Trees.
    I will happily contribute my time and money to support the goals outlined on their website.

    Perhaps in the future PR releases will include details that will preclude idiots like me from jumping to irrational conclusions about potential problems with poor planning of tree planting sites.

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  • q`Tzal December 28, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    I think that was me starting the fear mongering.
    Those of us that have wiped out due to trees that dump abnormally heavy amounts leaf litter (some trees ARE worse than others) have valid concerns about unspecified trees being planted at unspecified distances from paths at unspecified densities.

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  • chelsea December 28, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Awesome trailer! Thanks for helping out.

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  • Brad December 28, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    This is a problem with grassroots advocacy in general. Those proposing or doing a project don’t take the time to flesh out exactly what they plan to do. Instead, they dumb it down to a vague sales pitch made up of mission and benefit statements. Lacking significant details, a few concerned folks start asking legitimate and critical questions. Advocates, breaking the first rule of creative work – never fall hopelessly in love with your own ideas, get all bent and start lashing out at the “haters” for not swooning over their individual vision. Throw a few satire artists in there and voila, you get this editorial.

    It appears the plantings are being done in a smart way and kudos to Friends of Trees, Aaron, and others for getting this done.

    On a personal note to Aaron, be careful criticizing people on this forum. The clumsy expression of details and motivation generally leads to misunderstandings.

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  • Ken Wetherell December 28, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Nice flat bed trailer, Aaron!

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  • are December 28, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    i had not read the comments until aaron pointed them out, and while i understand that the lack of a detailed explanation up front will cause people to ask questions, quite a number of the comments proceeded from an assumption that of course these idiots were gonna do it wrong. people gotta lighten up a little and give others the benefit of at least a little doubt. note also that all aaron says here is that he was “disturbed” by some of these comments, not that the commenters themselves were at fault or wrong.

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  • Elly Blue (Editor) December 28, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Brad, I don’t think the failure of information is from Friends of Trees — if there is one, it’s on our end. We did a quick story about a tree planting along the bike path as an informational piece about the event, hardly suspecting that a high level of detail about the trees and their placement would be necessary. It simply didn’t occur to us that it would be an issue. We try, but we can’t catch ’em all.

    Several commenters were concerned about these details, however, and apparently assumed the worst based on limited information. Generally when something like this happens someone in the know will leave a comment clearing things up — in this case Aaron sent us details in the form of a story we could use. I don’t read his editorial as being particularly critical of individuals or “lashing the haters” as you say — he’s simply stating his miffed reaction to some of the comments. That’s my editorial interpretation, at any rate — Aaron can speak for himself on this.

    It’s always fascinating to see what stories turn out to be controversial. I would never in a million years have pegged this one.

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  • q`Tzal December 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    “Assume the worst, you’ll never be disappointed”

    Disclaimer: avoidance of future disappointment not guaranteed due to lack of customer imagination.

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  • FriendsOfGrass(not weed you idiot) December 28, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Did no one think about the impact on our friends, the grass. They may be miniscule in comparison, but size does not matter, as my GF rightly points out. It’s how you use it that counts, and that hill is not be used safely. What happens when those trees start growing sideways as they mature and freeze from a good snow, only to fall on top of an unsuspecting innocent. This war we have between Friends of Trees and Friends of Grass is gonna have casualties, and innocent trail users are gonna lose out. That berm use to be awesome for looking out over a clear blue sky for folks living across the street. Now the skyline is permanently ruined. Grass is green and clean, leaves and branches are brown and dirty and creepy. I hope someone notifies the city, for that hillside wouldn’t pass a civil engineer’s scrutiny for roots to anchor several tons of sideways growing trees.

    NO OFFENSE TO THE FOLKS THAT UNDERTOOK THIS WELL INTENTIONED TASK. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. The grass is always greener on the other side. Unless there are trees.

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  • Ed December 28, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks Aaron! We should all be so awesome.

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  • Timbo December 28, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    FriendsofGrass- So how much grass did you have to walk on to come up with that jibber jabber?

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  • wsbob December 28, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Carefully planned landscape design can have many benefits. It can be used to provide solutions to existing problems while avoiding new ones. With due respect to ‘FriendsOfGrass’, depending on various considerations made in creating a landscape design, trees don’t necessarily mean grass won’t grow there anymore.

    Also depending upon the design, there may be some loss of sky, depending on the vantage point, but…trees help to block irritable noise from busy freeways; sounds like possibly a worthy tradeoff…sometimes that’s better than a big hulking concrete wall.

    I’ll second ken wetherall’s comment: the trailer is impressive, especially with that load on it! Looks like 200-300 lbs of plants on it in the picture. Looks like it easily move a couch. A bike trailer that could move a big refrigerator or freezer…now that would be a bit of a challenge I suppose. Better have good brakes too.

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  • Bob_M December 29, 2009 at 8:18 am

    wsbob # 16
    Your comment on landscape design has been on my mind. The planting of trees is a good thing for carbon sequestering, for cooling shade, oxygen production and particulate interception, but the plantings were not designed, merely planted. The spacing was not done anticipating the tree’s ultimate spread, No foreground, middle ground and background planting was designed anticipating the tree’s ultimate height, texture or hue. The regimented spacing does not replicate natural plantings, nor do the rows and columns of the varied deciduous and evergreen trees replicate a formal design. Like I said, the trees are good, but to make the installation be all it could be, greater foresight in the placement could make the experience of cycling through the future wooded grove a richer experience (for those who notice those things)

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  • amos December 29, 2009 at 10:19 am

    You people make me laugh. Thanks.

    Great work and story, Aaron. That trailer is awesome!

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  • wsbob December 29, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Bob_M, if the planting wasn’t based on a design carefully planned for that location, I have to wonder why it wasn’t. Located directly next to I-205, I figured the land between the bike path and the highway would have been a transportation departments responsibility to appropriately replant. And…that the department would have had a big budget allotment to do it with.

    If Friends of Trees took on this chore where the highway department ran out of money or whatnot…good for them! There’s probably lots of good landscape designers in the metro area that could have lent them a hand (if they didn’t already have such help)without it being a big, expensive contractual deal.

    Looking at the picture, those big species pines and hemlocks(think that’s what they are, or spruce) on the trailer had me wondering a bit, but I figured someone there likely knew what they were doing. It does kind of suck if they were planted too close to the bike path. They should be about 20′ away from it.

    At any rate, it’ll be good for awhile. Live and learn. Bringing more people in on projects like this allows learning to happen. Still a good hands on effort even if siting of the plants turns out not to be so good. If so, as a result of this experience…watching it grow and so forth…the people involved may be knowledgeable enough to push for better design planning in future projects.

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  • Bob_M December 29, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    There are many issues at hand. ODOT does not want any big-leaf maple planted in their Rights of Way, because the leaves clog storm drain grates. They don’t want evergreens on the east side of roadways (especially at intersections) because they shade and prolong icy conditions. Good design would allow passage of mowers between the trees, and it is common for ODOT maintenance to thin plants to facilitate their work. We are agreed that the trees are good, this effort is laudable and that the participants should be thanked. PM flyingdutchman on the forum if you want a landscape architect to participate in the next planting.

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  • Steve B. December 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks, Aaron. I’d love to hear more about how you made that trailer!

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  • wsbob December 29, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Bob_M …flyingdutchman is involved with this project? I see that he posts comments in the forums occasionally. Seems like an o.k. guy.

    When they have it, I wish people would more frequently post a topic in the forums offering readers information about the project, design plans, maybe asking for suggestions from readers. It’s free. Can’t beat that.

    The bikeportland forums could really benefit from wider, more in depth input. I say that considering a good bit of the daily discussion over at bikeforums that’s measured in tone, constructive and informative. Having some of that here, centered on issues of local interest could be very beneficial. The main page stories here are just fine, but after they leave the main page, that tends to be it unless the staff brings them up again. Important topics can have more of a continuing life in a forum setting.

    There are smaller leafed, slower growing trees than big leaf maples. Anyway, we’ve got enough of those trees in the area. Besides, people today are increasingly more interested in indigenous plantings…vine maple, oregon grape, blueberries…you know…all the things that for many decades were summarily bulldozed out of existence and replaced with standard landscape plants whenever a new development went in.

    Either 7 Dees or Teuffel’s did a nice planting job on and around the highway retaining walls just west of the zoo overpass some years back when that section of the highway was expanded. The plants there are starting to look very nice now.

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  • MoreAdvertising December 29, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    I don’t think a lot of Portlanders have even heard about or its forum. Are there bumper stickers that we could go around slapping on people’s cars that we can blame on the silly kids and their shenanigans? Perhaps a billboard or two?

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  • Jim Lee December 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I have been talking with FOT and Metro to find out what planning was done by whom for the project. So far no one will own up to any, which leads me to conclude that more enthusiasm that intelligence was involved.

    Professional advice by a landscape architect would not have hurt.

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  • Helen McConnell December 29, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I was planting trees along the I-205 bike trail with Friends of Trees. Aaron’s trailer was all utility and awesomeness. I have told many people about it since that day. It definitely made hauling the big loads a breeze (but I wasn’t pedaling). We planted about a hundred trees that day, in short order. FT staff were overheard saying how quickly and efficiently the planting had gone. Thanks, Aaron!

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  • […] posts on the bike forum announcing the plantings and later a follow-up have garnered over 60 comments so far, some of the confrontational sort. More comments from the […]

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  • Aaron December 31, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Thanks BikePortland for the article. It looked great. Thanks for all of the interesting comments.
    Don’t forget that there’s another bike path tree planting on January 9th (see the FOT calendar if this link doesn’t work). I’ll be there with a trailer and would love some company.
    And for those interested in the trailer, I’m more than happy to share the knowledge and would love some company making more, it just takes access to a chop saw.

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  • rex burkholder December 31, 2009 at 7:10 am

    This is a really great project made possible by the Metro Natural Areas Bond measure passed in in 2006. It specifically included $15M in matching funds for projects that involved partnerships between government and community groups that restore our environment. ODOT, Friends of Trees and the neighborhoods along I-205 put together a great proposal, which I hope is the first of many plantings along our urban freeways. This is out-of-the-box thinking for ODOT and lots of credit goes to Region 1 manager, Jason Tell. I was happy to be able to advocate for funding this project.

    And I will be out there with my bike cart on January 9, 2010. Hope to see you there!

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  • rex burkholder December 31, 2009 at 7:11 am

    I also want to give big credit to Scott Fogarty of Friends of Trees for pursuing this idea!

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  • Jim Lee December 31, 2009 at 10:57 am

    As I said, Rex, less enthusiasm and more intelligence are in order.

    Multi-use paths have real safety issues and trees in proximity exacerbate all of them: bumps; traction; sightlines; security.

    Neither Metro or Friends of Trees analyzed impacts of these plantings on safety of cyclists and pedestrians on this multi-use path.

    This is the same lack of thought that promoted the silly bicycle facilities on your Columbia River Crossing, which even the Bicycle Transportation Alliance had to foreswear.

    First, and foremost, this is a muti-use transportation facility, not an arboretum. If you feel an overwhelming need to plant trees nearby try the median of the freeway, where they might do some good.

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