Palms Restoration

(Los Angeles, CA) TreePeople’s NeighborWoods-supported Palms Restoration Project empowers neighborhood residents to plant trees and work together in making their city streets greener, safer, and healthier. Together, these actions support stronger, more sustainable neighborhoods and revitalize communities. By creating tree-lined streets in the urban-dense residential neighborhood of Palms, in West Los Angeles, it is hoped to induce cars to drive more slowly and safely, creating a more secure neighborhood for local schoolchildren, while creating a cleaner environment, adding value to real estate, enhancing social interactions, and even reducing crime rates by up to 50%.


Category: Volunteer Training/Community Development
Overview
Crowding and overdevelopment has created bleak urban environments across Los Angeles, while at the same time creating an array of environmental and health concerns among local citizens. The urban tree canopy in the Southern California area is being depleted at rapid rates, leading a nation whose urban areas have lost more than 21% of their tree cover. Over two-thirds of the city is paved, raising the air temperature and creating high levels of polluted stormwater runoff. Air quality, while improving, is still rated among the worst nationwide. This creates problems such as urban “heat islands” and increased air and water pollution, and adds emotional and physical strain to residents. And yet, studies have found that greener surroundings can alleviate illnesses such as asthma, provide cool green space and cleaner air, and reduce energy costs to surrounding homes – all helping to directly improve human health and quality of life.
This planting project addressed concerns of environmental and neighborhood degradation through the planting of more than 100 trees, while also furthering community growth and empowerment by supporting hundreds of neighborhood residents, students, and community leaders to take personal stewardship for their communities, ensuring its renewal and growth far into the future.
Background
Pioneering the Citizen Forestry movement for more than 30 years, and inspiring the formation of more than 50 citizen forestry groups nationwide, TreePeople has gained unparalleled expertise in training and empowering local citizens to take personal responsibility for their environment. The Citizen Forester Training Program is unparalleled in the depth of education and training in urban forestry it delivers to Citizen Foresters, who will be leading the Palms Restoration Program. TreePeople conducts highly successful volunteer recruitment, training, and management, and the organization’s urban forestry projects are exceptional in the depth of volunteer education and care provided. The heart of TreePeople’s mission and programs is its volunteers.
The Palms Restoration Project was led by TreePeople’s Citizen Foresters. The Citizen Forester training consists of two workshop days and 1 field day, covering the following: The cycles of the Urban Forest, such as soil, water and air; The benefits and physiology of trees, focused on site and species selection, planting and pruning techniques, how to get permits, Permission-to-Plant and Agreement-to-Care contracts, tree care schedules, and check lists; Project Management, which breaks planning into milestones to build a budget, determine potential donors, ask for support, track donations, create flyers, write press releases, and gain access to local newsletters and newspapers; Community Building, which teaches each individual how to assess the resources of his/her community; and finally, Field Work, in which a trainee attends a TreePeople planting and spends the day learning first-hand how to plant trees, how to work with and guide volunteers and what a planting day looks and feels like.
TreePeople trains all volunteers in essential elements of urban forest design, planting and care, but also aspects of community building, including outreach to neighbors, permitting, and fundraising. All volunteers are provided with refreshments, tools, and safety equipment during plantings. Multiple TreePeople staff members and Planting Supervisors are always on hand to oversee all volunteers.
The Citizen Forester and volunteers provide follow-up care for the new trees and continue to deep water them for a period of 3 years. TreePeople also provides training in Tree Care skills for local neighbors and residents through TreePeople’s Tree Care Program, more specifically through the 2-day Tree Care Leader Training workshop. This workshop instructs participants in proper mulching, weeding, watering and pruning as well as logistical support for ongoing Tree Care events, and each participant agrees to be responsible for the continued health of the trees planted on their respective school campus. TreePeople Tree Care staff provide periodic care and inspection at their specified locations for at least five years following a planting.
School and property owners additionally fill out the Agreement to Care for a Tree, which entails one community or school member to take personal responsibility for monitoring tree health and growth. The community member will do this by taking part in TreePeople’s Tree Care Program and learning to spot growth problems or disease while corrective action can be taken.
“Check-up” visits are tracked through TreeBase, a tree care database that TreePeople uses to monitor the ongoing health of all its planted trees. The Tree Care staff also return every six months for two years to host a Tree Care Day in tandem with local Citizen Foresters, similar to the planting day, in which volunteers come out to mulch, water and prune the trees. These ongoing events empower the community in their continued commitment to the neighborhood and to each other. Due to the comprehensive and educational nature of the trainings, TreePeople’s tree survival rate tops 80%.
Components
Planting locations were specifically chosen to avoid restrictive spaces and allow trees to reach full height of at least 30 feet at maturity within asphalt cutouts. As the last step in securing needed permits, TreePeople Citizen Foresters and volunteers meet with a City of Los Angeles Street Tree Inspector, at Palms Boulevard, to determine exact tree locations. Concurrently, TreePeople works with the Bureau of Engineering and Street Tree Maintenance to ensure that no underground utility lines will be damaged, and to tag all street trees once planted, as required by the City of Los Angeles. A Street Tree Maintenance employee will also tag the trees at TreePeople’s nursery so that the City approves each tree before being planted.
Many partners aided TreePeople in achieving success on this project. They include:
* Mar Vista Community Council and the Westside Village Civic Association. These organizations provided financial support, volunteers and volunteer recruitment, and publicity for the event.
* Palms Middle School. Key administrators, teachers, and students took part in the planting event.
* Citizen Foresters: TreePeople contacts all trained Citizen Foresters living near a planting site, to actively lead planting and tree care projects.
* Boy Scouts: A local Eagle Scout coordinated help from several local Troupes.
* L.A. City Bureau of Sanitation, Street Tree Division determined proper tree placement along city streets.
* Department of Water and Power, the LA County Department of Public Works, and the Metropolitan Water District consulted to assure compliance with all city regulations.
Results
Planted 114 trees on Palms Boulevard with the goal of cooling buildings, streets and sidewalks with shade, lowering energy costs of surrounding structures, and bringing aesthetic improvements to the neighborhood.
Trained and supported 219 neighborhood volunteers in the basic skills of urban forest design, planting, and care. On a larger level, this created bonds and partnerships among local residents, enhanced social interaction among residents, created leaders within a community, and amassed a web of neighborhood contacts to counter future problems through collaboration.
Lessons Learned
1. Secure initial permissions from all parties (in this case: homeowners, property owners who live adjacent to the planting site, the city, Palms Middle School, and neighborhood groups such as the Westside Village Civic Association and the Mar Vista Community Council).
2. Build a dedicated and well-trained cadre of volunteers and super-volunteers.
Contact Information:
Jennifer Scott-Lifland
Tree Care Manager
TreePeople
12601 Mulholland Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Phone: 818-753-4600
Fax: 818-753-4635