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Chat with the Jeff Tarling, City Arborist

“The native trees in Deering Oaks pre-date the park being a park. There is a great cross-section of an old tree from the park in the Children’s museum on Congress Street that has a time line that counts the rings.  That particular tree is over 200 yearsold and there are yet larger ones still alive and well in the park.”

Jeff Tarling was a geography and earth science major while at USM in the early 1980’s.  During and since that time he has held a variety of natural science positions such as doing park ranger work and planning and laying out park designs.  It has evolved over the years into the City Arborist position for the Parks and Recreation Department in Portland.

​“In May or June of every year we will replace any tree losses that may have occurred during winter and during the summer we maintain the existing trees - such as pruning the newly planted and removing deadwood from the older to keep it safe and looking good at the same time.”  Since there are over a thousand trees in the park it’s always a rotating cycle of keeping the park healthy and safe.  In the past decade the park has lost about a dozen of the really large 150 to 200 year old trees.  “We had a storm last April 16th on Patriots Day and we lost nearly twenty trees and we were able to replant all of them through fund raising - so there is a lot of advocacy behind Deering Oaks and a lot of care.”

Jeff explains that it has been a fine-tuning process over the years on how to properly care for the beautiful trees of Deering Oaks.  “We used to mow the entire lawns of the park every week but we realized over time that the machines would slowly damage the roots of the trees from the tremendous weight of the mower that would circle the tree.  We also used to clear all of the leaves away that normally would turn into dirt and feed the trees.  So we were basically interrupting that natural cycle and we found that over the years of doing this the soil quality was becoming very poor.  I think that for a while the mentality was to really sanitize the park as to show how well it was up-kept but it just turned out to be too unnatural and did more harm than good.  So it’s definitely evolved over the years and we’re very proud of what we do for the park today.”

“As stewards of the park, whether it be the public or the city, I think we need to ask ourselves - how do we take care of our park and what’s the best way to continue it so that future generations have this same resource.  It definitely shouldn't be taken for granted. It’s pretty amazing to look at a birds-eye photograph of Portland and see this huge green forest in the midst of the city.  It holds a lot of fascinating history.”

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