At Mr. Tree, we are dedicated to caring for and properly maintaining our neighborhood trees. We want to enhance our local aesthetic and ensure we live in harmony with nature. However, we can’t do it alone. It takes a village to properly care for a community and we need your help.
If you are a dendrophile and want to give back to your local community, there are opportunities for you. One local undertaking is the option to become an official Neighborhood Tree Steward.
Portland’s Neighborhood Tree Stewards program is more than simply volunteering to plant trees for one afternoon, as many other volunteer opportunities allow you to do. Instead, this is a series of classes, split into five sessions, and it involves both indoor class learning and outdoor hands-on learning.
As a member of the program, you will learn about plant biology, Portland’s tree varieties, how to plant and care for trees, and about the local laws and regulations. You will also become familiar with how trees and communities benefit each other. Best of all, after the program, you get to put your newly acquired skills to good use. Stewards go on to spread their new knowledge through 40 hours of volunteer service in their own neighborhoods.
This is the perfect opportunity for people passionate about learning more about trees. If you’re the type of person others already go to for advice about plants, this program might be for you. Through learning and volunteer work, you will go on to become an even better resource for your neighborhood on matters of tree advice.
Becoming a Neighborhood Tree Steward is also a unique opportunity. While many cities offer volunteer days through their Parks & Recreation departments, most don’t offer a stewardship program that allows members of the community to become true ambassadors for urban landscapes. This is a unique program that allows for more in-depth volunteer engagement for those who are truly committed to making a difference and bringing long-term change to their communities.
Role of a Neighborhood Tree Steward
One of the biggest functions of a steward is being an advocate for the trees. People within your community might enjoy the shade that the neighborhood’s trees provide, but they might not be very knowledgeable about things like tree disease or proper care. And, in some cases, the city might not have enough in the budget to fund projects like beautifying the neighborhood. Yet this is an important part of living somewhere, as it helps the community take pride in where they live.
It would be a shame to let a neighborhood’s trees be neglected due to lack of knowledge or care. This is where stewards can be a voice for their local tree varieties.
For example, the city removed some elms that had died of disease in one neighborhood. However, there were no funds in the city budget to replace these trees, which had been an attractive part of the community for years. A member of this community joined the Neighborhood Tree Steward program, and the neighborhood was able to rally up enough knowledge, support, and resources to be able to replant trees in the same space. Years from now, the neighborhood will once again be shaded by beautiful trees.
As a steward, you will get to know a lot of people around you. Volunteering requires you to reach out to many new people. You will get to know neighbors better, and you may also get to know members of local committees and schools, other community groups, the local government, professional arborists, and others who work with trees for a living.
Getting to know new people is perhaps one of the best benefits of becoming a steward. Too often, we’re tucked away in our own lives, trying not to bother other people, but big neighborhood improvement projects are an easy and effective way to get the whole community together. You can make some new friends and meet people that you might not have even talked to before, despite living just a few houses down.
Some projects that stewards have headed in the past have been focused efforts to solve a specific problem. One steward held a fundraiser to inoculate neighborhood trees from Dutch Elm Disease so that they wouldn’t have to be removed.
Another steward noticed that trees along a stretch of a local pathway weren’t being properly pruned, hindering their growth. The trees’ needs were assessed and the community helped prune and take care of them. The pathway is now surrounded by healthy, well-maintained trees.
While some people go into the stewardship program with an idea of what they want to get accomplished in their community, you don’t have to come into the program with a clear, independent volunteer project. During training, you’ll receive lots of ideas and resources to help you serve your community within the year following your Neighborhood Tree Steward program.
An easy way to get involved is to attend meetings, such as neighborhood committees. This allows stewards to get to know community members and talk with them about potential ways to help local trees.
Portland Parks & Recreation’s Urban Forestry division is also a great all-around resource. They run workshops year-round that are ideal to help further your skills working with urban trees. Urban Forestry also helps out graduates of the Neighborhood Tree Steward program, so stewards can use them as a resource to go to for advice and support when completing volunteer projects.
Many local organizations have pre-existing volunteer programs that you can participate in. You can volunteer at an Arbor Day event, share your passion for trees through a booth at a community fair, or serve on an Urban Forestry committee. Maybe you’re interested in taking an inventory of your neighborhood’s tree varieties, which helps with future management projects. Or you could learn more about fruit trees through volunteering with the Portland Fruit Tree Project.
You can also do projects on your own terms if volunteer work through an organization isn’t what you have in mind. You can plan a work party to help maintain young trees in your neighborhood. Or, like stewards in the past, you could pursue a project that helps solve a problem specific to your own neighborhood.
Become a Tree Steward Today
Here in Portland, we’re surrounded by beautiful forests. But trees are also an important part of any neighborhood landscape. They help provide shade, lower energy bills, and keep us cool. They improve your street’s air quality. So it’s only right that urban trees should be kept healthy and contribute to the well-being of the people who see them every day.
Are you interested in becoming a Neighborhood Tree Steward? Check out more information about the program here.