Comment

Cultivating a Green Community!

Arbor_Day_4-27-18064.jpg

As an organization and campaign, Our City Forest continually works to increase community awareness of the many benefits of trees, especially in the urban environment.  We’re strong believers that if people notice trees more, they grow to appreciate them more. In turn, this appreciation will manifest in a willingness to protect existing trees and advocate for new ones!

At OCF, we’re continuously leading programs to engage community members in the appreciation, protection, growth, and maintenance of our urban ecosystem. We will continue to be fueled by you, our community of advocates and volunteers, to keep planting it forward everyday! There are numerous ways to get involved in our mission--here’s a few to get you started!

1. Plant a Tree at Home
Did you know that one mature tree produces enough oxygen for two adults? There are numerous health, environmental, and economical benefits of planting trees, so why not plant one at your own home? Our City Forest is here to help you every step of the way, from processing your permits to caring for your new tree! In fact, we’ll even help you select the right tree for your site.

2. Donate
Give the gift of green-- 100% of our donations go toward our urban forestry, water conservation efforts, and environmental educational programming. A donation to Our City Forest is dedicated to creating a green future and improving our urban forests. Your contribution can make a direct impact on the environment of today and the future! We appreciate donations of all sizes, and even those that provide us with items on our wish list!

3. Spread Tree Knowledge
At Our City Forest, we’re committed to educating others on the importance of growing and caring for our urban forest. No matter how young or old, it’s never too late to learn about the growing demand for conservation. Request a group presentation for your local school or neighborhood organization-- the benefits are endless! Sharing your group presentation with an online registration tool can allow you to get the entire community involved.  Let’s use the power of people to achieve this needed transformation in homes, communities and cities!

4. Volunteer
Interested in getting a little dirt under your fingernails? Join us in our mission and volunteer with Our City Forest. There are so many ways to dedicate your time to our organization! We have volunteer opportunities in tree planting, tree caring, education, and even office help! Our volunteers are vital to the success at Our City Forest. We even offer Team-Building Workdays for company involvement. Volunteering is a great way to enrich your life, and dedicate some spare time to a meaningful cause! Check out our calendar for volunteer opportunities!

Thank you for continuing to support us in our mission to make Silicon Valley green, vibrant and environmentally friendly.

Comment

Natives Take Root at Our City Forest's New Native Garden

1 Comment

Natives Take Root at Our City Forest's New Native Garden

Our City Forest is proud to present the newest addition to our parcel at Martial Cottle Farm Park, a California Native Garden. This garden showcases seven of California’s most common ecosystems by grouping native shrubs together based on their typical habitat. The goal of this garden is to educate visitors about native plants/ecosystems, and provide them with inspiration for using natives in their own landscape!

1 Comment

History of Our City Forest’s Community Nursery, Part 1

1 Comment

History of Our City Forest’s Community Nursery, Part 1

Our City Forest’s Community Nursery and Training Center is situated on two acres near Mineta San Jose International Airport.  It is home to some 2,350 young trees and 6,300 shrubs, nearly all of which were cultivated on site. The trees alone fill 38 rows spread across two large sections or ‘banks.’ In addition to its stock of plants, the Nursery keeps on hand sufficient planting materials and equipment to conduct regular community plantings of dozens of trees at a time. The Nursery also serves as a training site for AmeriCorps service members, Tree Amigos, tree stewards, and other community volunteers.

Our City Forest (OCF) has not always had a cultivation nursery to support its mission of greening Silicon Valley and engaging volunteers. The land that the Nursery leases today on Spring Street was made available by the City of San Jose in 2010, many years after CEO Rhonda Berry founded the nonprofit in 1994. A look at Our City Forest’s operation before it acquired the Nursery underscores just how valuable it is to OCF today. The Nursery enables OCF to control the supply, quality, and species of the trees and shrubs it wishes to plant, all  while expanding its community of volunteers.

 

The beginning of the Watson Park Tree Bank shade structure.

The beginning of the Watson Park Tree Bank shade structure.

Back in the day, OCF had to rely on wholesale nurseries in Sunol and the Central Valley for its trees. The wholesalers trucked the trees to an OCF “tree bank,” a storage yard for trees and supplies. They were located at a succession of sites in San Jose, first in Japantown then Watson and Kelly Parks. To get trees from the tree banks to the planting sites, OCF had to improvise. Rhonda estimates that OCF did not own trucks for the first 25,000 trees it planted.  Instead, volunteers brought their own trucks to move trees, which resulted in headaches if their vehicles were dinged in the process. Volunteers also brought shovels and other necessary tools.

While the early plantings sometimes took unpredictable turns that had OCF flying by the seat of its pants, longtime Tree Amigo and Nursery Docent Judi Wilson remembers them fondly: “We had fun.”

The use of wholesalers and tree banks worked well enough that OCF was able to plant some 2,000 trees per year. However, the quality of trees received from the wholesalers was uneven and in many cases, some were unusable.  As Staff Arborist Bo Firestone, who joined OCF in 2007, put it, “We would have trees delivered from a wholesale nursery perhaps the day before a project, and we might have to send half of them back. We then would be scrambling for last minute substitutions. Sometimes we wouldn’t even be able to plant all of the trees for a project because we had to reject some of them.”

The Watson Park Tree Bank shade structure.

The Watson Park Tree Bank shade structure.

The reasons for rejection varied. Trees arrived that were too small or too large for planting. Some were root bound or the roots were not developed sufficiently for planting.  Some came with wounds or other damage, or structurally they were unsuitable. For example, some trees arrived topped, others lacked a strong central leader, and still others had been pruned into ‘lollipops’ - a popular conception of how mature trees should look that when imposed on young trees limits their access to photosynthates, the very thing that drives their growth.

Tree banks added another dimension of unpredictability. The availability of these sites was neither guaranteed nor always the best place to keep trees.  For example, while using Watson Park to store trees, winter rains caused nearby Coyote Creek to flood. Christian Bonner, head arborist at the time, had the disquieting experience of watching the flood waters carry 6,000 donated tree seedlings downstream. Later, in 2005, OCF was forced to vacate the park when lead and other toxins from an old municipal dump were found in its topsoil, a discovery that closed the park for almost six years while it was cleaned. A 10 month delay in receiving approval for a new site from the City of San Jose limited OCF’s ability to plant trees. Volunteers were not allowed in the tree bank, and OCF, without AmeriCorps members in its early years, had only its staff available for plantings.

After the closure of Watson Park, OCF moved its tree bank to Kelly Park, a site that was large enough to accommodate both a shade house (built by Tree Amigos) and a limited amount of cultivation along with the usual stores of trees and equipment. As much as OCF members appreciated the charm of the park and the opportunity to grow plants, it would be OCF’s final tree bank. Bigger opportunities were in store for OCF, namely the chance to finally plant trees on privately owned, residential properties--a development that hitherto had been denied OCF and one with vast, untapped possibilities.  It made a cultivating nursery, i.e., a place to grow the trees needed for residential planting, a necessity.

The Kelly Park Tree Bank.

The Kelly Park Tree Bank.

For the first 15 years of its existence, Our City Forest relied on grants that stipulated OCF could plant only on public lands, such as parks and schools, or along streets. However, in 2007, the City of San Jose passed its Green Vision initiative that among other actions called for planting 100,000 trees by 2022, including on private property.

The OCF Team at the Kelly Park Tree Bank in 2008.

The OCF Team at the Kelly Park Tree Bank in 2008.

Rhonda Berry approached the City about its expansion of urban forestry goals, knowing the largest untapped planting area was within private yards. OCF and the City reaffirmed their partnership in greening San Jose through jointly leveraged resources, knowing that more varieties of trees were needed--and not to mention simply more trees!  From this confluence of events and political support came the beginnings of Our City Forest’s Community Nursery, but much more funding and support would be required, and from outside San Jose.

 

1 Comment