For nearly 30 years TreePeople has been making California greener through large- and small-scale seedling plantings, tree care workshops, pest control, and a multitude of other environmental programs and activities.
TreePeople´s many projects run year-round and require a constant supply of able volunteers. A visit to TreePeople provides a nice balance for anyone who wants to see something of California beyond Disneyland, the Hollywood sign and Rodeo Drive.
are located in an abandoned fire station in Coldwater Canyon Park, a 44-acre
oasis whose tranquility soon makes visitors forget that they are in the
middle of one of the country's largest urban areas.
who want to venture further, there is no end to the number of events taking
place in and out of L.A. Recent TreePeople projects have included planting
native pine seedlings on the Big Sur coast; weeding, reberming and mulching
Chinese Flame trees in West L.A.; and reforesting coniferous zones of
Los Padres National Forest.
Interested individuals, families or groups are welcome to participate in the planting efforts, with activities lasting anywhere from a half-day to a two- or three-day camping trip.
I caught up to TreePeople on Earth Day, when even the environmentally challenged are likely to think green. Groups of cub scouts, boy scouts, middle school students, and corporate "community action teams" like one run by Honda of America, turned out for the Earth Day planting. Not all were organized parties: there were couples, families, individuals and groups of friends ready to lend a hand.
The site was Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, one of the best-kept secrets in L.A. Tucked away behind busy La Cienega Boulevard and a smattering of oil derricks lies a large corridor of native plants and wildlife. Although urban development has already caused many plants and animals to disappear from the area, it still hosts over one hundred species of birds and dozens of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. These animals depend on over 70 different species of native plants for their survival. Since the park does not receive enough funding for planting, TreePeople frequently contributes manpower and other resources.
The morning started off with an orientation and demonstration by TreePeople staff. Our work area was a sloping hillside alongside a hiking trail, peppered with small orange flags stuck into the ground. The staff showed us how to dig a hole at each flag, remove the seedlings from containers without damaging them, place them into the holes we had dug, and remove any air space before filling the holes back up. We also placed wire cages around the seedlings to protect them from gophers. The wire, we were told, would slowly decompose over the next five or six years.
My fellow planters each seemed to have their own reasons for participating in the event, but the common thread was definitely enthusiasm. Anya Hayes, a Honda employee, brought her 3-year old son Elijah so that they could do their part on Earth Day but "This is something where he can come back years from now and see the trees he planted."
For some, the rewards were more immediate.
Anthony Grisby, an 11-year old from Horace Mann Middle School, thought the planting was hot and hard work, but also "cool." Walking past a seedling he had planted just hours before, he could not contain his excitement. "It´s already growing something!" he shouted.
Whole Plant Communities
has witnessed the scorched black remains of a forest fire can appreciate
the labor involved in helping those areas return to their original state.
In addition to TreePeople´s staff experts, dubbed "Citizen
Foresters," TreePeople often works in conjunction with the U.S. Forest
Service to care for areas that are recovering from fire.
Though it may have started as a local organization, TreePeople's achievements have extended worldwide. A year of research and logistics planning went into an African famine relief effort, in which 6,000 fruit trees were flown to six nations.
If you still
need one more reason to devote a day of your next California visit to
the environment, consider the fact that this could be your best shot at
rubbing elbows with the stars. Actresses Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate
and Selma Blair have volunteered for TreePeople. Rocker Tommy Lee has
also participated in plantings, which count towards court-mandated community
service hours. So skip the Hollywood crowds and head to TreePeople 90210.
You may just end up mulching with your favorite celebrity!
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