A city crew was removing a handful of trees from alongside Pier Park in North Portland Wednesday.
They’re clearing a path for a pedestrian bridge that will connect Pier Park with neighboring Chimney Park and a 10-mile stretch of trails linking North Portland to downtown.
So far, they’ve left one important tree standing: A 120-foot giant sequoia tree.
The Portland Department of Parks and Recreation says the tree will need to be removed if plans for the trail are going to continue. But neighbors are fighting to keep the old tree alive. Which is greener, a tree or a trail?
Longtime St. Johns resident Dennis Keepes says the city shouldn’t have to choose. He’s applying for heritage status for both that tree and the surrounding grove of giant sequoias. And he’s challenging the city’s engineers to build the trail around it.
“I would say there is a way to do it,” he said. “I’m saying we can be for the pedestrian path and be for saving the giant sequoia tree.”
Portland Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Mark Ross says the city has looked for other ways to build the bridge without removing the tree. But safety and engineering requirements don’t leave the city any better options.
“If there were any way to do this project without removing this tree, we would have done it,” said Ross. “This option has the least impact to trees.”
The city has offered to use wood from the sequoia for benches in Pier Park and plans to use other parts of the tree for a children’s play area in Westmoreland Park. Ross says the city is also planting seven sequoias and more than a dozen other trees nearby to offset the loss.