The city of Portland, Oregon, has made significant alterations to a local park in the last month. A backhoe was brought in to rip the Ground under a forested slope. And they covered an open area south of the Adidas site in North Portland with logs, so they’d be visible from the busy Greeley Avenue.
Just across the street, licensed landscape architect Reif Larsen was fuming. He claims that the city’s efforts to remove homeless campers harm the trees that give Madrona Park its name.
“I’ve never seen such a brazen demolition of an urban forest with no plan for reconstruction or restoration,” Larsen says. “Whatever the solution to the camping issues may be, I do not know, but this cannot be the standard, or else we will have no urban forest left.”
A municipal official had a different take on the improvements, stating that Portland Parks & Recreation only attempted “to restore the site’s ecology.”
“The logs have been placed as an ecological measure to help return the site to a natural state. Some soil in the areas that were previously compacted has been sacrificed using equipment,” Mark Alejos wrote.
He said the logs were brought from elsewhere in the city to prevent cars from driving into the woods. Furthermore, they will not disappear. “The hope is that this coming winter, we can plant native vegetation, and over time, the logs will decompose, adding valuable nutrients to the now compacted soil,” he said.
While it is implicit, what is missing from that remark is a reference to the campsites that were removed and replaced with the logs. On March 24th, the campground was completely emptied of campers. A constituent was given an alternative explanation by a representative for City Commissioner Mingus Mapps.
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Jackson Pahl, an environmental activist, sent an email that was given to WW by Joe Rowe. “The logs appear, in this case, to be a low-cost/impact alternative to placing boulders or jersey barriers, and the bureau stands by that as a temporary measure to deter camping in this area,” Pahl said.
Larsen still has his doubts. He points out that in the past, the city has chosen methods far less disruptive to deal with camping’s adverse effects. Adidas has long worked with the city to clean the streets and eradicate noxious weeds.
David Grandfield, a municipal staffer, said in 2020 that the parks bureau intended to plant 500 oak trees in camper-affected areas. “It’s a long-term vision spanning decades,” Grandfield stated.
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