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Soapbox: There's a link between trees, stormwater and Cooper Mountain

Brian Wegener is the advocacy and communications manager for the Tualatin Riverkeepers. Todd Prager is a planner and certified arborist with Todd Prager & Associates and member of the Tualatin Riverkeepers Citizen Action Committee.

The city of Beaverton is in the process of master planning Cooper Mountain for suburban development. This 2,290-acre area at the southwestern edge of Beaverton consists of hills, farms, forests and creeks that flow into the Tualatin River.

This planning process provides a unique opportunity to "design with nature," so that people and the environment can live in harmony.

In the past, suburban development meant clearing the trees, paving the land and piping stormwater to the nearest creeks. The results have been disastrous. Trees and soils naturally absorb and purify stormwater, and without them, dirty water rushes to creeks and pollutes our rivers, harming wildlife and water quality.

Communities throughout Oregon and across the country have been working to undo the damage and improve water quality by planting trees and removing pavement. However, these "green retrofit" projects are much more expensive than designing communities correctly in the first place.

Cooper Mountain could be a national model of a suburban community "getting it right;" and trees could be at the heart of the solution. This is because trees are like living water quality facilities in that they capture and treat rainwater with their leaves, shoots and roots before it reaches our waterways.

A study by the U.S. Forest Service found that just one mature tree in the Portland region can capture 449 gallons of stormwater per year. The city of Beaverton estimated that if at least 60 percent of the Cooper Mountain planning area is covered with tree canopy, the area's stormwater issues will be largely solved with trees capturing over 34 million gallons of stormwater per year.

A 60 percent tree canopy may seem daunting, but with careful urban forest planning, it is achievable. First, incentives and investments could be made to preserve the existing forests on Cooper Mountain. Park acquisition could be targeted toward forest areas, and developers could be granted fee reductions and design flexibility for preserving large groves of trees. Next, planting requirements could be created to grow big trees with large canopies where shade is needed most — along city streets.

Imagine tree-lined streets with close-by access to forested parks and trails. We already know these are the types of communities where people want to live, with studies showing people willing to pay up 20 percent more for homes in leafy neighborhoods. Neighborhoods in Durham and Lake Oswego currently exceed 60 percent tree canopy and have some of the more desirable housing in the region. This is a win for the environment and a win for the bottom line.

In closing, we ask that you join with the Tualatin Riverkeepers in advocating for trees, clean water and a prosperous community when master planning Cooper Mountain. Let the city of Beaverton know that a comprehensive urban forestry plan is a critical piece to achieving these goals.



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  • 24 Oct 2014

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