PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s not money, but rather manpower, that has prevented Portland Parks and Recreation from beginning efforts to proactively take down trees and branches at risk of falling.
The work is underscored this week as tree limbs and entire trees have fallen, the most significant of which was at Creston Park. On the west side of the park, a tree snapped at its base, just above the ground, falling on several cars. No one was injured but Beatrice Roger was nearby and said children were in some of the cars when it happened.
“Her car was hit, a branch went through her windshield,” Roger said. “She told her daughter to stay perfectly still and she was able to get her daughter out of the car, but the door on the daughter’s side was bent in half.”
Roger heard the screams from her house, just across the parking lot. She thought someone had crashed into her home the noise was so loud.
“I was upstairs listening to a book, which tells you how loud it was because I had pods in and I heard this really sickening cracking sound, [it was] extremely loud. Then, honestly, blood-curdling screams from folks that were in the parking lot,” Roger said.
The pool at Creston Park had just closed and families were trickling to the parking lot after the hot and breezy summer night.
Roger had called 911, thankful to get through and Danny Newman was checking on cars to make sure no one was inside needing help.
“You think these trees must be over 100 years old. Unless there’s some major event you think they’re going to be fine,” Newman said, “It’s definitely a little concerning that on a nice night one of these trees can just fall over.”
Newman and Roger say a neighbor had reported the tree the day before it fell, on Sunday. Another neighbor, Bradley Hochhalter, says he noticed it was off as well.
“I noticed that it hadn’t looked good in the past anyway. I kind of wondered about it, it didn’t seem like it was a healthy tree in some ways,” Hochhalter said.
The larger tree knocked down another large tree. Parts of limbs were also seen on Powell Blvd. near the park. In Berkley Park, a tree limb also fell sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday. No known injuries have been reported. In Irving Park, neighbors report branches falling is a common occurrence there as well.
In 2020, voters approved the Park Levy to fund proactive tree maintenance for the first time. Money for the program began rolling in the fall of 2021, but Portland Parks and Recreation says, they have struggled to hire enough people to address the 1.2 million trees across the city.
“You can’t have too many people on the crew to assess and take down hazardous trees,” a spokesperson for the bureau said in a statement.
PP&R says any resident can alert them about a tree that is concerning. If the tree is on City property, it can be reported to email@example.com or by phone at 503-823-8733.
“The more the better, obviously,” Hochhalter said about the number of city crews to address trees. “If you can inspect them and keep us safe, that’d be great.”
PP&R encourages people to contact an arborist to assess trees on private property, noting they may have to work with the Urban Forestry Department with permits to do work on them.