Sacramento NeighborWoods

(Sacramento, CA) Sacramento Tree Foundation’s NeighborWoods program engages approximately 3,000 participates annually.


Category: Volunteers
Overview
Each NeighborWoods project requires approximately 15 volunteers to be successful. At least one of those fifteen must be a Volunteer Coordinator, a volunteer specifically trained to manage up to 300 volunteers. With the support of trained NeighborWoods volunteers, the Sacramento Tree Foundation can leverage staff time to address technical support, program development, and partnership-building to strengthen NeighborWoods programs.
It is the Volunteer Coordinators role to orient new volunteers to the importance of ongoing tree care and monitoring for the first three growing seasons. With the use of visual materials and presentations, new volunteers learn that tree maintenance is the determining factor in any successful tree projects. This includes but is not limited to educational and training opportunities, conducting monitoring reports, volunteer recognition levels, project achievement reports, and volunteer celebrations.
New volunteers are recruited from ongoing events and activities. As volunteers become more involved and receive training in the NeighborWoods framework, their capacity to lead their own projects will increase and staff will be capable of launching new NeighborWoods projects in neighborhoods not currently served by the program. In addition, Sacramento Tree Foundation enhances neighborhood leadership development and retention of volunteers in NeighborWoods projects by fostering a culture that validates and honors the commitment of volunteers.
Background
The Volunteer Coordinator directly supports projects by coordinating the involvement of residents, business owners, and city government in planning, planting, and caring for the trees that they plant together. This larger group is called the NeighborWoods Volunteer Network, and is neighborhood specific. These networks provide increased neighborhood capacity for communication and action. Each neighborhood builds a database of residents willing to volunteer, distribute fliers, and phone residents to inform them about upcoming events. The Volunteer Coordinator assists the neighborhood in cultivating and contributing to the creation of an enhanced sense of community familiarity and cohesion as they participate in the education and events involved in planning and planting their neighborhoods.
NeighborWoods is based upon neighbors working together to set their goals and priorities, with the Sacramento Tree Foundation providing guidance, technical expertise, coordination and resources. This type of grassroots initiative is the building block of community revitalization in that it creates new social interactions and environmental enhancements. As residents and businesses replant and care for their street, park, and school these measurable benefits accrue in the quality of life of the neighborhoods.
Since its inception in 1982, the Sacramento Tree Foundation has educated people about the importance of trees and mobilized them to plant and care for trees. Over time, its focus has shifted from the care and maintenance of individual trees to the importance of improving the urban forest – the complex ecosystem of trees and other vegetation that serves and supports the urban area.
Programs include:
* Community Shade, which plants and cares for more than 2,000 trees a year in schools, parks and streets
* Mistletoe, which helps residents remove this tree parasite
* NATURE, which replants native trees that have been lost to development or road widening
* NeighborWoods, which assists neighborhoods to organize community tree planting and maintenance
* Shade Tree Program, a partnership with a local utility to provide trees and education
* Save the Elms Program (STEP), which monitors for Dutch Elm disease and plants new disease-resistant elms
* Seed-to-Seedling, a curriculum for elementary school teachers on native oaks
* Greenprint, an advocacy campaign that builds support for doubling of region’s tree canopy over next 40 years
Components
At the time of planning each tree project, the property owner is assigned ultimate responsibility for tree care and maintenance. With the assistance of a three-year maintenance plan and monitoring schedule, the Sacramento Tree Foundation works closely with volunteers and sponsoring groups to ensure tree survival and growth. They offer annual Tree Care Days and provides NeighborWoods volunteer opportunities for Tree Care Workshops. In addition, qualified staff and trained volunteers assist those requesting individual instruction on young tree pruning, mulching, and restaking. More specific steps include:
1. Site visit with property owner/manager. 2. A signed agreement to allow the planting and future monitoring of the project. 3. Local project advertising and call for volunteers. 4. A planting map is prepared with location and selection of trees. 5. Volunteers are recruited and trained with safety instructions. 6. Planting specifications and on-site planting demonstration. 7. Coordination and on-going planting, staking and tying instructions during the event. 8. Wood chips and watering of newly planted trees. 9. Maintenance plan includes quarterly reports and annual stewardship workday. 10. Tree replacement, pruning and restaking (or removal) on an as need basis.
The Sacramento Tree Foundation works with many partners in order to execute its NeighborWoods program. The county has given a blanket permit approval to the organization’s street tree plantings program; individual property owners apply for the local permits for their respective projects. Other partners include:
* The Home Depot at 4641 Florin Road in Sacramento (Carl Jackson, Store Manager) has worked in partnership since 2000, completing projects that have revitalized neighborhoods with the beautification of vacant lots and the construction of new playgrounds and community gardens. These projects have included recruiting the support of student volunteers from Christian Brothers High School and St. HOPE Academy. The collaborative effort has provided the landscaping for several vacant lots located at prominent neighborhood gateway entrances and has produced amazing results.
* County of Sacramento supports the NeighborWoods program through an annual grant for organizational capacity and volunteer-led tree planting and care projects.
* Sacramento Municipal Utilities District provides all the trees and related materials to further their energy conservation goals.
* Golden 1 Credit Union, SureWest, and various realtors sponsor backhoe support and the production of fliers.
* AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, Hands On Sacramento, Volunteer Center of Sacramento, and other volunteer organizations supply many of the volunteers for planting and care events.
* Tree care companies donate technical help and assistance for Tree Care Days.
* Park districts donate facilities and assistance to host planning meetings and planting and care events.
* Neighborhood associations work with STF to distribute fliers and publicity.
Results
The program maintains about a 90% survival rate of the trees planted. In the event any tree does not survive, and after a site visit to determine the cause of failure, a replacement tree is be planted within the following year. Additionally, in 2005/2006 the program achieved:
* Planted and maintained 3,997 new trees at residential homes, business districts, and schools over the course of 95 events.
* Engaged 1,773 volunteers for 5,883 contributed hours.
Lessons Learned
1. Increase leadership capacity of volunteers, thereby requiring less staff support.
2. Expand the NeighborWoods program to new neighborhoods.
3. Retain new volunteers to strengthen the organization, and have them work in their own neighborhoods.
Contact Information:
Ray Tretheway
Executive Director
Sacramento Tree Foundation
201 Lathrop Way, Suite F
Sacramento, CA 95815
Phone: 916-924-8733
Fax: 916-924-3803