Organicallygrowngroup's Blog

Organically Grown plants 30 trees with the Treepeople

Having lived in Encino, California for the past eleven years, my wife Julia and I have seen about 60 trees die in our neighborhood. It was sad. My dog, Hero, helped me notice this, because there were less trees for him to pee on. I thought the city would replace them, but it didn’t happen.  I soon learned that although we have wonderful, committed people working for the city of LA , budget cuts had taken its toll, substantially reducing the number of city of Los Angeles workers to care for the trees.  I wanted to see if there was anything I could do.

This is where the TreePeople comes in. The TreePeople is an organization created by Andy Lipsius. Andy started TreePeople in 1970, when he was just age 15 to replace fallen trees. More than ever,  the city needs private organizations like TreePeople to help replace and maintain its trees. But the TreePeople is here to “inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment, making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable and to share the results as a model for the world.”  Thus, the TreePeople needs volunteers to get involved in their respective neighborhoods and make it happen.

We did our first tree planting January 6, 2009 in Encino Park. We planted 12 trees with the help of the TreePeople, the City Of LA and extraordinary volunteers including the friends, neighbors, the Boy Scouts and the wonderful  Disneyteers. The next phase was to plant 29 trees on the city streets of Encino over a three block, one quarter of a mile radius.  This which would require a lot more effort and time to get accomplished. You think it would be easy to get the support of your neighbors. First all of all, everybody receiving a tree had to sign a simple agreement  with the city. They had to promise that in exchange for receiving a tree,  they would care for it. Although I was warned about this in my TreePeople  one day citizen forester training,  incredulously,  some people would not want a tree.  After all, trees drop leaves,  attract birds and birds poop, block views and have to be cared for.  I had to respectfully confront this and discuss the value of having trees with my neighbors… like they create oxygen, cut pollution, create shade that can reduce your home energy bill, it’s the right thing to do… Also, I didn’t know all of the people in my 3 block. radius.  Thank you, Janie Thompson for helping me. Janie knew certain neighbors, I did not know.  She actually told one elderly neighbor, “Honey (Janie’s originally from Texas) by the time that tree has 100’s of leaves falling, you will long be gone.  You have nothing to worry about.”   At the end, only two neighbors refused to participate. Luis Torres works for the city of LA. Luis came out and marked the spot where our trees were to be planted.  Some trees we lost were on street corners, but the new trees could not be planted on street corners because they would grow to obstruct a driver’s view. We then discussed the proper tree selection. On Genesta Ave., we chose jacarandas because of the preexisting tree line and have a beautiful purple flower.  It is very satisfying to see our baby jac trees in a row with the old jacs. In front of the school, eucalyptus… On Otsego and Magnolia Streets, crepe myrtles  that could be grown under the telephone and power line and neighbor Barry Freeman, aka “Beautiful Barry” received his requested birch tree. What upset me the most was what I saw in front of Encino Elementary School. There were beautiful eucalyptus trees in a row.  But in two tree beds, one had a tree stump and the other was covered with asphalt.  It was like that for years. What a pitiful example to set for the kids of this school.  Did anybody in the school ever even notice this?  Luis had the stumped removed the next day!  Luis got me  permission to remove the asphalt. It was like that Joni Mitchell song, “Big Yellow Taxi”, the one with the lyric, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”  I hit that asphalt with the same contempt that Gideon smashed the idols ( I think I’m getting a bit dramatic).  Now we have two gorgeous eucalyptus. trees in a row with the older  trees. Thank you, Luis.

The next thing I had to do was call, Dig Alert. These guys move like the air force. You wouldn’t believe what has to be done. Before you dig,  the city calls out the gas co, telephone, co, DWP, cable co, water & power etc. They all have to sign off with Dig Alert before we could dig. Each company sprays a different  paint color in the street showing us it was okay to plant.  This was amazingly and efficiently done within 48 hours of me calling Dig Alert!  Thank you, Dig Alert.

The day before the scheduled planting, the City of LA delivered a truckload of mulch on my front lawn. The mulch would help keep the moisture in the ground, protecting the tree from the heat of the sun. Now it came time for the planting and it rained. Fortunately, Michelle Bagnato, our TreePeople representative, was able to shift our planting to the following week.  Thank you Michelle, for your passion and amazing organizational talents.  The grounds were soft from the rains and that made it easier to plant.  Michelle was right: The trick to a successful planting is to get the trees in place the night before.  Thank you to everybody who picked up their trees the night before and to the neighbors where we set up distribution centers, such as at the home of Nancy and Jerry Cohn. A distribution center is where we stored several trees the night before, but on planting day, the trees  could be put in the proper planting place within two minutes. Each tree was given a name.  The Cohn’s tree was aptly named, “Judge Jerry”, as Mr. Cohn sits on the bench.

The greatest part of the event was the volunteers. Thank you to my friends, neighbors, TreePeople ( Art, Michelle, Marcos, etc. ) UCLA Fraternity, Girl Scouts, Kelli Wurtz and friends, Americorp (what an amazing organization) and thank you to our dear friend and Organically Grown licensee, Andre Costa deSousa from Mashon.

The kids who volunteered were amazing. I thought I would inspire them, but they really inspired me!  And of course to my wife, the amazing Julia Stein, for cooking for 75 volunteers her award winning world class chile.  I know that as long as Julia cooks, we will have tons of volunteers!

We began planting the trees at 9:00am, only after The TreePeople gave a demonstration how to plant the trees. The Treepeople provided all of the equipment and supplies.  The tree planting was supervised by 6 TreePeople supervisors. Amazingly, by noon, all 30 trees had been planted. Now that the trees are in the ground, the work has just begun to care for them.  Thank God that two weeks after the planting, we’ve had lots of rain.

Our next tree planting is Oct 9th. Be there or be square! I hope that in some small way this email has inspired you to have your own tree planting.