Readers Respond to the City of Portland Letting Trees Die

“I’ve been watching these trees slowly die all summer. I wonder how many other trees recently planted on PBOT property are being ignored?”

In these polarized times, it takes an extraordinary act to bring all of our readers together. Or, more precisely, extraordinary inaction. The city of Portland planting 30 saplings in a traffic median, then letting the contract to water the trees expire? That’ll do it. The trees died (“Whoops,” WW, Aug. 9). The Portland Bureau of Transportation said watering trees was outside its scope. Our readers were quick to point out that city bureaucrats used to have a contract with the nonprofit Friends of Trees—but let that expire, too. Here’s what else our readers had to say:

achy candystore, via Twitter: “Pretty apt metaphor for...everything happening in Portland.”

Richard Ellmyer, via “What did PBOT management think was going to happen when the private contract to water these trees expired? Apparently thinking was not part of this equation, i.e., no water = dead trees. And so it goes.”

@ambrown, via Twitter: “Apparently the city can’t even plant trees without making a plan to water them? City Hall is an absolute clown show and charter reform to force these bureaus to talk to one another and coordinate can’t come soon enough.”

Aggressive-East7663, via Reddit: “I’ve been watching these trees slowly die all summer. I wonder how many other trees recently planted on PBOT property are being ignored? There’s a bunch of street trees in front of the community garden on Southeast Market at 101st that were planted at the same time that haven’t been watered once this year either. At least a few of those trees have died as well. Is this a citywide issue, or is it more of an East Portland thing? It’s such a shame.”

Chris Carvalho, via Twitter: “This is PBOT, failing at the simplest things. Not only are they anti-car, they’re also anti-tree.”

Ron, via “Portland: The City That Refuses to Work is what the motto should be. City agencies don’t talk to each other and often refuse to. PBOT plants, but it’s not their job to water or tell the proper department that they planted things that need watering. I first realized this 30-plus years ago when I lived on Northeast Fremont/46th. The city spent a week repaving and improving Fremont. It was quite lovely. Sadly, it lasted two weeks before the city came in to tear up Fremont in order to hook homes into the sewer line. Both massive projects had been planned for years and were done by two separate departments that never bothered to see if their plans conflicted with another department’s.

“The more things change the more they stay the same.”

TheSheDM, via Reddit: “Oh gee, if only there was some org that could have helped keep these trees alive. Like if there was some sort of beloved local nonprofit that could have partnered with the city to help nurture trees like this with the help of local friendly volunteers that love trees. Certainly the city wouldn’t turn down such an opportunity…”

Lisa Loving, via “I got a tree from Friends of Trees this spring and they literally harass me over it. They dropped off a free tree bag (cool!); multiple FOT people have been to my door nagging me about weeding around it; one crew even came, mansplained about tying up the tree too much, but then sunk four wooden stakes around it to tie it up some more and keep it growing straight. FOT on the job and each of those trees would be green and happy, whether anybody liked it or not.”

LETTERS to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: PO Box 10770, Portland, OR 97296 Email:

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