News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters Woodlands marking trees for preservation

Hundreds of trees at the future site of the Sisters Woodlands housing development along Pine Street are festooned with green and blue ribbons.

The ribbons identify trees that will be preserved as the 200-plus-unit development moves forward.

Kevin Eckert of BUILD LLC is designing the project for Paul Hodge and Paul and Carla Schneider of Sisters, who purchased the property that was formerly part of the U.S. Forest Service administrative site. He told The Nugget that, “…[I]n our latest site plan studies, we’ve identified the over 500 trees we believe we can keep (green ribbons) and many others that we might be able to keep (blue ribbons).”

Among the trees that will be preserved are five very large ponderosa pines, including a 58-inch diameter pondo that is believed to be the oldest tree in Sisters.

The property is heavily treed, and preservation is a key goal for Eckert. In initial estimates, he expected to preserve about 200 trees.

“We’re at about half of them,” he said. “Just a little over 550.”

That includes about 80 percent of the trees over 30 inches in diameter.

“There are some that are dead-center of a road,” Eckert acknowledged. “But the five biggest we’re keeping.”

The development will have to comply with the City of Sisters’ mandated 3:1 replacement ratio for trees over eight inches in diameter.

Currently, 375 trees of that diameter or greater are slated to be cut, which means the developer must plant 125.

Eckert said that replanting will be accomplished “mainly through street trees, but also we’ll be planting a lot of trees in our common areas.”

He said that the “very early landscaping plans” call for 135 planted trees.

“It’s going to be fairly straightforward for us to accomplish.”

The architect has moved roads to get around trees where possible, and in one case moved a townhome to preserve a tree cluster. A pocket park will occupy that space. Big trees are either left in common areas or straddling a lot line so that a future homeowner can’t just decide to take them down. Variances to the size of side yards will be requested where necessary to allow for that measure.

“There’s no clear ownership of that tree,” Eckert said.

Some tight clusters of trees will be thinned for the health of the remaining trees, but the extent of that work has yet to be determined.

“We just haven’t got to that level of analysis yet,” Eckert said.

He said that the next step will be to have an arborist officially tag trees and assess health and other attributes of each tree on the 35-acre site.

Preserving trees is more complicated than simply avoiding cutting them down. The way the site work is conducted is critical, too.

“You can’t change the grade very much,” Eckert said.

Changing the grade significantly disrupts root systems and puts trees at risk.

Attention to tree preservation carries a cost.

“That kind of move adds about 20 percent to your time and budget,” Eckert conceded.

On the other hand, the forested atmosphere of the property is one of its selling points.

Currently, the design calls for 101 cottage units; 68 townhomes (plus accessory dwelling units); 112 apartments along Highway 20 and possibly 15 apartments above light industrial units at the western edge of the property. There are no single-family units planned, as “it’s not really affordable for most people,” Eckert said.

Eckert said that he does not expect the project to be impacted by Hodge stepping aside as CEO of Laird Superfood (see related story). Hodge has advocated for affordable workforce housing in Sisters, which Sisters Woodlands was designed to provide. Eckert said that Hodge continues to have a significant stake in Sisters.

“According to Paul, it does not change his commitment to the project,” Eckert said.

Eckert said that he’s hoping to get before the Sisters Planning Commission soon to pursue the next steps in the project. Continued momentum is necessary if the project is to stay on track for breaking ground on infrastructure in March 2022.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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