Saying goodbye to our elm trees on SW 10th Ave.

As Oregonians, trees are part of who we are. Trees offer shelter, shade, oxygen and a familiar backdrop for the most special places and moments in our lives. 

Felled tree at Central Library 1

As the director of Central Library in downtown Portland, the stately American Elm trees in front of the library have long offered me a calming sense of stability and permanence. But all living things eventually die and, sadly, we must now say goodbye to the two beautiful elm trees on SW 10th Ave. 

After the winter weather earlier this year battered one of the trees, causing damage to the front of Central Library, we learned that both of those trees are dying and dangerous to the public. Because of this, the City of Portland has ordered that they be removed, and soon. On February 26, tree care professionals will remove both trees. This will restrict access to the street, sidewalk and front steps, requiring a public closure of Central Library that day. 

Felled tree at Central 2

Elm trees face particular challenges in an urban setting. Since being planted approximately 125 years ago, these trees have become stressed and unhealthy due to their confinement, root system disruption and exposure to the elements. The library takes a proactive stance toward maintaining trees at each of its 19 public locations, including routine assessment, trimming, inoculation against disease (such as Dutch Elm Disease) and nourishing root systems. Elm trees on the north and south sides of Central Library are in much better shape, thankfully. Additional tree maintenance work will take place on SW Taylor St. Feb. 22 that will affect parking and sidewalk access on that day, but will not require closure of the library. 

The tree trunks will be salvaged and milled for reuse. Arborists will destroy limbs and bark in accordance with special precautions around elm wood disposal to prevent the spread of Dutch Elm Disease. 

These trees do not have Dutch Elm Disease. 

After the trees are gone, the library will coordinate with its facilities staff, architects, arborists and the City of Portland to create a plan for what happens next. City code requires replacement of the trees with approved types.

Goodbye, old friends, and thank you for the memories. 

-- Dave Ratliff, Central LIbrary director