Neighbors in N. Portland rally to save large tree from the ax

Neighbors in N. Portland rally to save large tree from the ax

PORTLAND, Ore. - A giant sequoia in North Portland has become the focal point of a bitter controversy.

The tree sits inside Pier Park, just across some railroad tracks from Chimney Park and crews want to build a pedestrian and bike bridge connecting the two parks.

The bridge would be part of the ten-mile North Portland greenway. Right now, Union Pacific Railroad tracks separate the two parks and the bridge would go over those tracks. But construction plans call for one giant sequoia inside Pier Park to fall in the process.

It is a tough pill to swallow for Dennis Keepes. He has sounded the alarm bells, trying to build enough support to save the tree.

He estimates the tree is about 18 feet in diameter, 120 feet tall, and about 80 to 100 years old.

He and other concerned neighbors plan to meet Tuesday night to discuss the options. He's optimistic, but city leaders say this has been approved for some time now.

"This (the tree) is gonna be our argument tonight," said Keepes. It's gonna be right from (the heart), man. Everybody's on our side. I think we're gonna win. I think we can save this tree."

"We sympathize with people who want to save the tree," said Mark Ross, spokesman for Portland Parks and Recreation. "We don't want to knock down a tree, but it's in balance with everything else the best possible solution."

The tree is supposed to come down sometime this week and city leaders on Tuesday indicated there really wasn't a chance that opponents could stop that from going forward.

"We don't just go around cutting trees down willy-nilly," Ross said. "This is a very carefully considered project."

The city is quick to point out that what it plans to do to mitigate the loss of this tree. It will plant additional giant sequoias in the same area and the tree itself will be recycled and turned into different features at a nature play area in Westmoreland Park.

The rest of the trees in the grove of sequoias won't be affected. But that doesn't matter to Keepes.

"We're advocating for the sequoia. Sequoia are not just any tree," he said. "You've gotta come and feel it. I mean, the trees themselves are very persuasive."

Contractors looked over the site Tuesday to decide how to bring the tree down.