Trees in Oregon City
Inside City Hall
What Is the Urban Forest?
Oregon City's urban forest includes all trees, whether they are grown on private property or public property. Currently, the city only regulates trees on public land (streets, parks, open space, etc.), within Overlay Districts, and during the development review process on private land.
Who Is Responsible for Maintaining Trees in the Urban Forest?
In Oregon City, as with most cities, abutting property owners are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of street trees in the public right-of-way adjacent to their property. Most routine maintenance (such as proper pruning and cleanup of debris) can be done by homeowners and helps keep trees healthy and streets and sidewalks clear. The services of a Certified Arborist should be contracted for significant work such as major pruning, and are required for tree removal and replacement in the public right-of-way.
Trees on private property within city limits are currently not regulated unless the property is being reviewed for new development, or if the tree is located in a water quality, geologic hazard or habitat protection overlay zone. Property owners should check with the planning division prior to tree removal in any of these situations.
Oregon City does not currently have a city forestry division, therefore several departments share responsibility for the task of maintaining Oregon City's Urban Forest. Depending on the location, abutting owners may work with staff from Planning, Code Enforcement and Public Works to ensure that Oregon City's urban forest canopy is maintained and enhanced.
Benefits & Costs of Trees
Trees provide environmental benefits, such as stormwater retention, shade, wildlife habitat and reduced energy consumption. Trees help to bolster property values in residential and commercial areas, and improve the aesthetic appeal of urban streets.
Did You Know?
Planting a public / street tree can provide an abundance of benefits, not just environmental! For example, a recent study by the City of Portland found that a tree with a canopy cover of 312 square feet (the average for the study) adds $7,593 in value to the house it fronts. Trees also positively influence the values of houses within 100 feet. On average, there are 7.6 houses within 100 feet of a street tree. A tree with 312 square feet of canopy cover adds, on average, $9,241 to the value of neighboring houses. See a copy of the study.
Street trees also help to calm traffic and provide separation between car traffic and pedestrian areas. If properly selected and planted with sufficient space to grow, urban trees can provide all of the above benefits at little cost.
However, trees do have a life span. Sometimes an inappropriate tree species is planted or grows in the wrong location, which may result in lifting sidewalks or cracked curbs. In this situation, the city may issue a permit (PDF) for the tree to be removed as long as it is replaced with a more appropriate species. The City of Oregon City regularly reviews and revises the recommended Street Tree Species List (PDF) according to planting strip width. Similarly, trees that are dead, diseased or hazardous, as verified by a Certified Arborist, must be replaced.
Tree City USA
Oregon City has been a confirmed Tree City USA since 2012. Tree City USA status is awarded by the National Arbor Day Foundation, and helps to raise awareness about trees and the importance of urban forestry to our quality of life. Please visit our Tree City USA webpage for further details!
Trees in Overlay Zones
The cutting of trees in the City's overlay zones is regulated as follows:
- Natural Resource Overlay District (NROD): Cutting of trees or the removal of native vegetation within the NROD is prohibited, unless part of an approved development activity.
- Geologic Hazard Overlay District (GEO): Tree removal on slopes greater than 25% where canopy area removal exceeds 25% of the lot requires Geologic Hazard review.
- Historic Overlay District: Cutting of Heritage Trees, which are specifically listed on a Designated Historic Site inventory, may be regulated.
Consult with OCWebMaps to determine if your property lies within any of these overlay zones.
Native & Nuisance Species
Native tree species are welcome in Oregon City. Nuisance tree species are not. Oregon City Municipal Code makes it easier than you might think to plant Native species and remove Nuisance species with lists and helpful links:
- Oregon City Native Species List (PDF)
- Oregon City Nuisance Species List (PDF)
- How to Know if You Need a Permit to Remove a Tree in Oregon City
Tree Protection During Construction & Development
Chapter 17.41 of the Oregon City Municipal Code regulates the removal of trees during development and construction.
When Do I Need City Approval for Tree Removal?
Oregon City has a webpage dedicated to this very question. Go to How to Remove and Replace a Public Street Tree for more information.
How Can I Help Oregon City Maintain Its Urban Forest?
There are many ways that you can help maintain and improve Oregon City's urban forest! Here are just a few:
- Plant a Street Tree (Species list [PDF])
- Plant a tree in your yard
- Plant a tree along a stream