Coming soon to Mount Tabor: lots of Roundup
The City of Portland is about to start a five-year project of removing non-native plants from the slopes of Mount Tabor. Cutting out the choking ivy and digging out aggressive shrubs probably won't raise any eyebrows, but there is also going to be a fair amount of herbicide spraying. The city says it will be careful, but since the park sits atop several open drinking water reservoirs, some folks are concerned. Moreover, there's not a community consensus that all of the non-native trees should go.
The report outlines what is envisioned to be at minimum a five year project of plant removal and replanting on the steep and fragile slopes of Mt. Tabor Park. Although the city quotes from the Mt.Tabor Master Plan 2000, "Protect and enhance the environmental aspects of the park," this project takes a twisted approach, including spraying pesticides throughout the park and near our water reservoirs. The city will use chainsaws and pesticides to remove mature non native trees, many which are historic in nature and are a living history of the Mt Tabor Park and area. It includes removing non-native under story plants, deemed invasive, yet at the same time many of these plants and trees provide important food sources and nesting habitat for birds and wildlife.[Photo courtesy Miles Hochstein / Portland Ground.]
Phase One is scheduled to take place across the natural areas on the west and south faces of the park, listed as "Non-Restricted Herbicide Use Zones". (See map on final page of report for zones) In the draft report, it states, "In Phase One of the project, herbicide use is not restricted; in Phase two, herbicide use requires additional notification to and coordination with PWB" This language is not included in the final report.
This project is part of the Tabor to River project and the spraying of pesticides in our watershed is being paid for by taxpayer dollars going to the Bureau of Environmental Services to match federal stimulus dollars that must be spent by the end of this calendar year. There's the rush and the rub. While much of the work will be carried out by private contractors, apparently because the project is managed by BES no plan is required because no permits are being pulled. Of greatest concern is the lack of a final landscape plan that takes into account the entire scope of this project.
Compare the recent project detailed in the news regarding Forest Park and the clearing of a pipeline. The private business had to present a complete plan and paid $107,000 in permits to parks to cut 313 trees. The Forest Park plan has such detail that it includes how many snags will be left standing and that no downed trees would be removed but instead be used to improve wildlife habitat. The Tabor project includes scant details and simply describes the park as a "Landscape in Transition" for a minimum of the next five years; and with little concern for wildlife or erosion, it states, "Downed trees will be chipped... "
Five years in municipal and bureaucratic worlds is a lifetime. Just think of the past five years and all the plans and reports made for our beloved Mt. Tabor that have been abandoned along the way. This project depends on stimulus money for the first phase and no funds are available or identified for the following phases. At the end of the project, BES hands it back to Portland Parks and Recreation to maintain. This is a joke because the maintenance budget is always axed by the Parks Bureau, and is a big reason for many of the problems with our parks' natural areas. Five years is a long time to envision a civic project that has no plan and has had little meaningful or widespread community engagement.
Is it the collapse of the housing market and a shrinking market for nursery stock and chemical applications that are putting our parks and our health at risk? Regardless, there are better ways to spend this money at Mt. Tabor that most people could agree upon. For example, remove the worst invasive plants, such as English ivy, clematis and knot weed, replant areas that have already been cleared before clearing more areas, replant dead and dying mature trees with large caliper, specimen trees, and make a comprehensive landscape plan. Or use the one Olmsted plan created for Mt. Tabor Park over 100 years ago!
The city is offering a walking tour on Saturday, September 11, rain or shine, at 9-11 a.m. Meet at the main parking lot of the park to tour the project site.