The Oregon Department of Forestry and the nonprofit organization Oregon Community Trees (OCT) have announced this year’s recipients of the Oregon Urban and Community Forestry Award. They are:
- Cassie Sigloh in Redmond
- Michael Calhoun in Vernonia
- Portland Fruit Tree Project
- Rivers of Life Center in West Linn
Scott Altenhoff of the Oregon Department of Forestry, who directs the agency’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, said the awards recognize the important contributions committed individuals, acting alone or banding together in organizations, can make to their communities.
“Urban forests benefit everyone. These forests, in turn, benefit when local residents and non-profit organizations work with city governments to keep them healthy and vibrant,” Altenhoff said.
Oregon Community Trees Vice President Teresa Gustafson chairs the committee that reviews the nominations. Speaking of the Portland Fruit Tree Project (PFTP) nomination, Gustafson said, “Their latest project aims to identify, map and evaluate the health, harvestability and yield of Portland fruit trees. They hope to reduce fruit waste and carbon emissions while improving Portlanders’ diets. Their programs are innovative, driven by the desires of community members, and have long-term benefits for some of the most vulnerable people in the Portland area.”
Heather Keisler Fornes, Executive Director of PFTP, said of the award, “The Portland Fruit Tree Project is honored to be part of such a dynamic group of companies and individuals who are growing a more lush and equitable canopy in our state.”
The Rivers of Life Center based in West Linn was the other recognized organization. The non-profit organization works with at-risk Oregon youth cities on projects to restore, enhance and beautify nature.
Gustafson said, “Their Mt. Scott Headwaters project, conducted in partnership with Clackamas County Water Environmental Services, provided more than 500 acres of new habitat along Stevens and Phillips Creeks south of I-205, complete with muskrat houses, Beaver dams and raptor nesting platforms with public wildlife viewing trails and educational and interpretive signage.”
Jerry Herrman, President of the Rivers of Life Center, said, “Our urban spaces where people and wildlife coexist can and will be improved through good urban forest practices, the involvement of diverse volunteers, and most importantly, direct experiences with ‘nature’s creation.’ . ”
Individual award winners
Cassie Sigloh didn’t go to school to be an arborist. But during the 16 years she worked for the City of Redmond, a now-retired former supervisor of hers sparked her interest in tree care. She then passed the exam to become a certified arborist at the International Society of Arborists (ISA). Since then she has helped tend street and park trees in Redmond during ice, wind and snow events, as well as drought and heatwaves.
“Cassie has a pure passion for arboriculture and trees in general,” said Tyler Roth, an OCT board member who nominated Sigloh. “She really doesn’t have to do what she does. Cassie does it because she loves trees.”
What can a single person living in a small town do to make a difference? Michael Calhoun of Vernonia in Clatsop County knows. After graduating from Oregon State University and returning to Vernonia, he became interested in a Hiroshima Peace Tree for his hometown. The young trees were grown from seeds collected from trees that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. As a symbol of hope and resilience for the human survivors of this disaster, Calhoun felt that one would be a fitting symbol of the resilience he had seen in his fellow Vernonians rebuilding after the devastating floods of December 2007. Calhoun worked diligently worked with city officials to ensure the Peace Tree was properly sighted and even managed to install a protective fence. The tree is one of only 53 available to be planted in Oregon through a partnership between Oregon Community Trees and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF). In 2022 the Peace Tree was planted in Ora Bolemeier Park. Calhoun arranged a dedication ceremony for the community with the Japanese Consul in Oregon as the guest of honor. That same summer, Calhoun organized a meeting with city officials and the ODF to discuss ways to raise tree canopies in downtown Vernonia.
“Michael represents how one person can make a huge difference to their community when they’re patient and persistent,” said Kristin Ramstad, who nominated Calhoun and recently retired as ODF’s city forest manager.