By Aaron Selverston
Palo Alto, CA (January 21, 2011)- Dozens of families and volunteers joined Mayor Sid Espinosa Thursday night at a ceremonial tree planting sponsored by urban forestry group Canopy and the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center.
Numerous former mayors were in attendance, including Yoriko Kishimoto, Pat Burt, Larry Klein, and Vic Ojakian, as well as council members Greg Schmid, Karen Holman, and Nancy Shepard. “This is obviously a full turnout,” said Mayor Espinosa to a crowd of about 100 people.
“This is an important event for Palo Alto. Trees are important enough that city leaders should come together, celebrate them, remind citizens that it is important to plant them, that it is important for environmental reasons, health reasons, business reasons. It’s good for us to stop and focus on that to celebrate trees.” The mayor then took a polished shovel and, with the help of numerous children, ceremonially covered the base of a Cedar of Lebanon tree with fresh dirt.
This year’s tree planting fell on the Jewish holiday for trees, Tu Bishvat, which added a special significance for many of the attendees.
Natassia Timothee, whose 3-year-old son, Elijah-Re Jones, and 5-year-old daughter, Isis Jones, helped Mr. Espinosa plant the tree, said it was important for the children to participate in the event. “I thought it was important for [the kids] to see a different aspect of how we bring community together,” she said. “We’re not even Jewish, but the kids are getting exposed to that, and I really like that. The kids understand why this is important and understand that they too take care of the earth.”
The slender, 20-foot tall tree will become a signature in front of the JCC’s Taube Koret Campus, towering above the surrounding foliage. The Cedar of Lebanon has a longstanding religious and historical significance. Cedar is cited 76 times in the Bible because of this species, and sawdust from the tree has been found in Egyptian tombs. The tree was also used to build King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem and David’s and Solomon’s palaces.
Mr. Espinosa showered praise on Canopy, which is responsible for the lion’s share of the city’s tree planting efforts. Palo Alto cuts down hundreds of trees annually-some dead, some diseased, some in the way of construction projects. “Canopy makes sure that hundreds are planted-hundreds more than were cut down-all over this city,” said Espinosa.
David Dockter, a 12-year veteran arborist for the City, shared in the praise, saying that Canopy has done an excellent job of adapting to the changing cultural values that shape the city’s tree-planting choices. “Different values held by different cultures don’t necessarily perfectly jive with how things are set up in Palo Alto,” said Dockter. “We all need to be flexible. I’ve always advocated that our laws and regulations need to reflect the values of the community at large. And values change.”
Canopy, he said, is very sensitive to those changing values. Randi Brenowitz, Community Outreach Director of the Oshman Family JCC Community Outreach Director Randi Brenowitz said earlier that the JCC was honored to be a part of this year’s Tree Planting. “Our campus was designed to be a welcoming urban oasis,” she said, “and trees help create that environment.”
Palo Alto Patch- Mayor Plants Biblical Tree To Celebrate Urban Forestry Group