Thousands of Trees and Growing

Rancho Cordova, CA  |  Story and photos by Trina L. Drotar
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RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) – Lincoln Village Community Park was abuzz with activity on a cool, sunny November 3rd morning. City of Rancho Cordova, Soil Born Farms, West Coast Arborists, and Sacramento Tree Foundation staff arrived early to set up the registration booth, lay out the eight piles of colored bandanas for each of the planting teams, “Tree Hero” shirts, and morning wake up goodies of coffee, hot chocolate, and edibles that included locally harvested apples brought in by Soil Born Farms. Shovels, bags of compost, trees, and other supplies were organized, moved, stacked, and packed into trucks for transport to the locations. Men, women, teens, children, and members of various groups arrived, signed in, picked up their packets and bandanas, chatted, and enjoyed some down time before work began.

Mayor Linda Budge strolled the park with Jake, her white poodle. Mature trees stood tall in the background beginning their annual fall color show, and a gaggle of geese wandered across the grass. She was there to celebrate the planting of the 1000th tree to be planted in Rancho Cordova since 2015 as part of an effort to expand the city’s urban forest. During the first year, 100 trees were planted in the Lincoln Village neighborhood. During the next two years, the goal was to plant one tree a day. Those numbers were surpassed with 367 and 474 trees.

A Chinese pistache, which can reach 60 feet when mature, was chosen for the planting. Shiree, Soil Born Farms’ Edible City Assistant, worked with Gabriel from West Coast Arborists and Jason from the Sacramento Tree Foundation to prepare the planting hole. Mayor Budge and Sacramento Tree Foundation Executive Director Ray Tretheway wielded golden shovels for the ceremonial planting.

Steve Harriman, Rancho Cordova Public Works Division Manager of Operations and Maintenance, led the group of nearly 100 volunteers through a tree chant before sending the teams off. Volunteers included students from C.K. McClatchy and Cordova high schools, SAVA (Sacramento Area Vocational Academy), Sac State Hornets, Rancho Cordova Sunrise Rotary Club, representatives from Congressman Ami Bera’s office, Rancho Cordova Police Department, Davey Resource Group, Cordova Recreation and Park District staff, members of the “It Takes a Lincoln Village” group, and citizens from near and far. Some volunteers wanted to play in the dirt. One young woman said she came because she’d heard that birds have lost nesting places and she wanted to help them and the environment. Others, like Fayzah and her family, came to help out of civic pride in their community.

Shade trees are beneficial for homes, providing much needed shade during the summer months. They can also help improve air quality, and reduce cooling costs, which is why SMUD provided the day’s shade trees.  There is a need to expand the city’s urban forest, said Mayor Budge, which is why the city’s Free Trees+ program is supported by the Community Enhancement Fund. Many trees, she added, had been lost during the drought – some died and some had been removed by homeowners who mistakenly believed that they used too much water.

One twist to Saturday’s planting was the inclusion of fruit trees provided by Soil Born Farms under a grant serving the Lincoln Village community and communities in South Sacramento.

 “Thanks to Soil Born Farms, we are planting fruit trees this time. Some of our home builders have selected decorative trees for our new homes that are messy or have invasive roots. We are hoping that by replacing them with a tree that has the benefit of providing fresh fruit for our families, Rancho Cordova residents will want to enjoy these trees for longer periods. In my own yard, the trees are constantly dropping leaves, flowers or seeds – all year long. So I can really understand people wanting a tree that provides shade and food at the same time!”

The orange team’s first stop was Artur Margaryam’s front yard where they planted two new fruit trees, a mandarin and an Asian pear, bringing his total number to eight trees which include lemon, pomegranate, and persimmon. Team leader Stephanie Robinson, Communication and Engagement Manager at Sacramento Tree Foundation, demonstrated proper planting techniques. Hole depth and width, how to build the mound, the proper height for the tree’s crown were shown and then she asked for volunteers to do the work which was checked by her and Ray Tretheway.

She addressed the need to call 8-1-1 before digging so that any underground utility lines could be marked and those areas avoided. She spoke about compost and Tretheway weighed in on the importance of removing grass from the soil being dug up. As with too much fertilizer, the grass can potentially burn young roots because the grass heats up.

While volunteers took turns digging the hole and removing grass from the dirt, another group worked to free the mandarin from its container and massaged the root ball. This, Robinson explained, is important because the roots have grown into circles while in the container but they need to grow outward to prevent the tree from falling over. She covered mulch and reminded volunteers that it provides insulation from heat and cold and can be obtained free of charge from SMUD’s corporation yard.

 “Education is our central mission,” said Robinson, adding that she wants volunteers to “feel invested in our urban forest.” The foundation fields hundreds of telephone calls each week about watering, pruning, and other topics, and offers free workshops.

 “This region would be unlivable without trees,” she said.

City Manager Cyrus Abhar wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the tree planting crew either. He helped mulch the Asian pear tree alongside Fayzah and her family who’d ridden up earlier on bicycles.

Harriman gathered volunteers once again and led them in a tree cheer before they left Margaryam’s home for their second, and last, stop where they would plant eight trees on a single property. Residents, through the Free Trees+ program, are eligible to receive up to ten trees on their property. Volunteers squatted, counted down, and then grew tall as trees waving their arms like unstaked fruit tree limbs bending in the wind and growing stronger.

For additional information about Lincoln Village Community Park, visit: https://crpd.com/parks/lincoln-village-community-park/. If you’re going: 3480 Routier Road, Rancho Cordova. For more information about Sacramento Tree Foundation, visit: https://www.sactree.com. For more information about Soil Born Farms, visit: https://soilborn.org/. For additional information about Free Trees+, visit: https://www.cityofranchocordova.org/departments/public-works/services-and-programs/free-trees.