Main Street trees in bloom

Callery pear trees in full bloom line Main Street in downtown Pendleton.

PENDLETON — It’s deep into summer in Pendleton, and the midsummer sun reminds us of one of the many values of trees: shade.

Try to imagine what life in our area would be like without shade trees. In 1902, Colonel William Parsons wrote a less than pleasant description of the Pendleton landscape, identifying a fringe of “ungainly” and “lowly” trees along the Umatilla River but otherwise found “flanking hills bare of shrubbery and prolific only of frowning rocks and worthless sage-brush”. Add summer temperatures in the 90s and it’s easy to see why early Pendletonians had a keen appreciation for the wonderful value of shade.

Fortunately, these early residents took the time to plant trees. As current day residents, we are benefiting from their work, as we find the shade from large trees in public and private spaces throughout the city.

It is said that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is now. Whether you are investing in shade for the future, or increasing the value of your property, trees planted now will be worth plenty in years to come. A recent series of international studies showed a 10-20% increase in residential property values from trees.

Commercial districts also benefit from trees, as shoppers report a more pleasant experience in areas with trees, and have even been found to spend more. This gives older business districts with mature trees an advantage over outlying box stores, groceries, and strip malls. How often had you taken extra time to find a parking spot under a shade tree in the summer?

And then there is the energy savings. It is estimated that trees planted in Sacramento, California, are now responsible for saving the equivalent of one power plant’s worth of energy. Sacramento found that planting the right tree (height and shape) on the south or west side of a home resulted in a 30% savings on summertime air conditioning costs. And these energy savings help with climate change, as less power generation leads to lower carbon emissions from power plants; up to 41,000 tons fewer emissions in the case of Sacramento. Less carbon in the atmosphere means less climate change.

Some shade trees can cause problems, however, as they grow and begin to block views or threaten to become intertwined with overhead utility lines. The temptation may be to “top” the tree, a tragic recipe for an ugly, unhealthy tree with continued problems. A better idea is to consult a tree-care expert for professional advice and help thinning the crown.

Enjoy the shade of trees planted in the parks, along the streets, and in the yards, and when you do, thank those forward-looking early residents of Pendleton. Planting a tree now is a perfect example of a purely altruistic act, one that will benefit our city for generations to come.

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The Pendleton Tree Commission is appointed by the city council and assists in guiding the city’s tree management program. This does not include trees on private property, but the commission is providing this information to the public to help keep all of the trees in the city healthy and happy.

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