Our City Forest Helps Willow Glen Streets Green Up the Area
With National Arbor Day less than a month away, nothing shouts the importance of environmental consciousness more than the planting of trees. For Willow Glen residents who want a little more green in their lives, free trees are provided by the San Jose nonprofit Our City Forest.
During its 10-year existence, Our City Forest has helped San Jose citizens plant 30,000 free 15-gallon shade trees, with each planting tailored to the needs and interests of a specific neighborhood. It is also a good opportunity to meet new people and socialize with existing friends.
"We measure success in this program by how many people come to the plantings," Our City Forest director Rhonda Berry said. "We ask that every tree be adopted for three years; we have a 90 percent survival rate."
Berry asks neighbors to adopt each tree to make sure they are watered properly and kept free of weeds. She says the organization is on call for three years after the tree is planted. It also sends out health reports to those who adopt a tree so they can report the health of the tree back to the organization.
"We want to see the largest shade tree possible for the space available," Berry said, talking about one of the nonprofit's goals.
Free trees are made available to Willow Glen neighborhoods and individuals through a variety of grants that Our City Forest applies for, with the most significant ones awarded by the state. Berry says once grants are approved, the organization often sends out notices to neighborhoods that are eligible for free trees.
Willow Glen has 1,107 individual trees planted, the highest rate of all the neighborhoods in San Jose, Berry said. And, more than 120 trees have been planted at Willow Glen elementary, middle and high schools.
"We try to work with small neighborhood associations; we specialize in
community plantings," she said. "We hope tree plantings turn into
community building events, where people have a barbecue afterward and get to know each other better."
Members of the North Willow Glen Neighborhood Association planted more than 20 trees in North Willow Glen on Oct. 25. They planted trees on Coe, Fuller, Hull and Spencer streets, and Snyder Avenue and in Hummingbird Park.
The planting was such a success that the association is planning another planting for April 10, which coincides with its April Neighborhood Service day. The area qualifies for a grant from Our City Forest that will pay to have holes cut in concrete parking strips; normally this costs $50, which in the past has deterred some neighbors from planting and adopting trees.
North Willow Glen Neighborhood Association co-Secretary/Treasurer Ken Eklund said the April planting will hit areas that were missed during the October planting, citing Fisk, Atlanta and Coe avenues as possibilities.
"People were very happy to get trees in the neighborhood," he said,
when the association did the October planting. "I think a lot of street
pride developed. It was a great community-building event."
Other Willow Glen streets have also taken advantage of the free tree program. Willow Glen resident Jeff Jones said sickly tulip trees were replaced with Yarwood sycamores on Fairwood Avenue. Another tree planting is planned at First Covenant Church in Willow Glen, with Our City Forest providing free trees and tree-planting and -care instructions. Community members are invited to come pick up a shovel, help plant a tree and enjoy a free barbecue and music.
For more information about the tree planting on March 28 at the First Covenant Church, 790 Coe Ave., call 408.297.3530. For more information about the North Willow Glen April 10 tree planting, visit www.writerguy.com/nwgna. For more information about Our City Forest, call 408.998.7337 or visit www.ourcityforest.org.
By Amy Wicks, Willow Glen Resident, March 17, 2004