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Partnering to plant the I-205 forest
Jan. 9 Planting Kicks Off 15-Mile I-205 Multi-Use Path Greening Project
Volunteers plant trees along the I-205 Multi-Use Path
Article courtesy of Friends of Trees
 
Community volunteers from across Portland joined State Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, Metro Councilor Robert Liberty, ODOT Region 1 Manager Jason Tell, and Friends of Trees Executive Director Scott Fogarty on Jan. 9 to kick off a three-year project to green the I-205 Multi-Use Path. The project, which involves planting thousands of trees along the 15-mile path from NE Marine Drive in Portland to SE 82nd Drive in Gladstone, is the result of a unique partnership among Friends of Trees, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and Metro.
 
Funding for the project comes from a $410,000 Nature in Neighborhoods grant from Metro's 2006 voter-approved Natural Area bond measure; an $80,000 grant from East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District; and generous donations from area businesses including J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., HSBC Bank USA, N.A., Cantel Sweeping, and Portland General Electric.
 
In addition to greening the highly-visible transportation corridor to enhance the landscape for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, drivers, and residents in bordering neighborhoods, the project has created green jobs for underserved and minority communities through partnerships with Verde, Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, the Portland Development Commission, and Worksystems, Inc.
 
Federal stimulus funds created a new job of guiding planters at I-205 Multi-Use Path plantings for Portland OIC work trainee Antonio Askew. “It’s a way to meet people and make connections,” Askew explained. “That’s why I come out and do these functions.”
 
In thanking all of the project partners, supporters and volunteers, Friends of Trees' Scott Fogarty acknowledged the contributions of Oregon's congressional team, represented at the planting by staff members for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer.
 
Region 1 Manager Jason Tell said the project, which brings together nonprofits, businesses and multiple government agencies, is unique in Oregon and might be the first of its kind in the country. It's "actually part of something much, much bigger" than greening the I-205 Multi-Use Path. He noted that the path borders many neighborhoods, each of which "has its own character."
 
Some of those neighborhoods are significantly less green than others, Metro Councilor Liberty added, so the project is not just about improving the environment but also about equity. He commended the volunteers for planting the "I-205 forest."
 
State Sen. Dingfelder, who has biked the path for 15 years, said, "When I bike this path now, I'm going to thank all of you who came out to plant the trees." As chair of the Oregon Environment & Natural Resources Committee, Dingfelder has been working to reduce carbon impacts. She was pleased, she said, to see ODOT "thinking outside the box" about transportation corridors.
 
East Portland Action Plan advocate James Chasse, who has biked the path for 20 years, called the greening project a huge piece of the transportation puzzle.
 
In addition to enhancing the Multi-Use Path for bordering neighborhoods and everyone who uses it, the plantings will reduce air pollution, minimize storm-water runoff into streams and rivers, and provide habitat for wildlife and songbirds. When complete, ODOT will showcase the project as a statewide model for considering the greening of ODOT right of way.
 
To learn more about the project and upcoming plantings, visit www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/REGION1/I205_MUP.