By Monserrat Solis and Mike Terry
San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol
The City of San Fernando is the happy recipient of 30 new evergreen trees thanks to TreePeople, a Los Angeles-based environmental organization working in partnership with the National Football League.
The trees are for a program known as “Calles Verdes,” a joint model environmental program of TreePeople and the City. The planting was sponsored in part by NFL Green, the league’s environmental program.
The evergreen trees were chosen because of their drought-resistance and low-maintenance care, and were planted on the 500 block of Huntington Street in the City of San Fernando on Jan. 22.
It was one of the NFL’s community events that leads up to the Super Bowl game on Feb. 13, to be played by the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
Other NFL Green events have included a kelp forest restoration and beach clean-up event at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro on Jan. 24; a sports equipment book and a school supply donation project in LA on Jan. 27; and a beautification project at Queen Park Community Garden in Inglewood on Jan. 27.
A final NFL Green event will take place later this year, as the community projects will be passed from Los Angeles to Phoenix, the site of next year’s Super Bowl game.
“What we hope to do with our greening program is not only to offset our environmental impact of our Super Bowl events, but go beyond that,” said Susan Groh, associate director of NFL Green.
“The Super Bowl will be here and gone but these trees will be here for a long, long time, and they’re going to make such an impact on this community,” Groh said.
The NFL Green program began three decades ago as a response and aid for communities wanting to do something about the environmental impacts of their sporting events, officials said.
The Calles Verdes planting was the second event sponsored with NFL Green before the Super Bowl. The first was a tree planting event in Watts.
Choosing San Fernando
The Calles Verdes partnership with the City was launched in 2019.
“ was the year we got the Calles Verde project funded,” said Cindy Montañez, CEO of TreePeople (which began in 1973) and also a San Fernando City Councilmember. “It was going to be 1,000 trees planted throughout San Fernando. And there will be another 1,000 trees planted through a contract we have with Republic, the waste disposal company.”
Montañez said that 500 of those initial 1,000 trees have already been planted “primarily between Third and Fifth streets, and between Hubbard and Maclay.” Another 250 trees have planned sites, and their planting begins on Feb 26.
One of the considerations for selecting communities for planting trees is “we look at blocks that don’t have enough trees,” said Cindy Villegas, the San Fernando Valley community organizer for TreePeople.
“So, for us to look into blocks like this, we know that by planting these trees, we’re going to increase the ‘tree canopy,’” she said. “That helps [temperatures] drop by many degrees, so that’s definitely another reason.”
The average number of tree canopies in communities like Pasadena and Glendale is double compared to the Northeast San Fernando Valley.
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, trees can help lower surface and air temperatures in cities that can experience extremely high summer temperatures — like San Fernando — by producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gasses.
Because of climate change, caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses, cities everywhere are experiencing extreme weather changes. One solution, researchers agree, is planting more trees. Studies indicate the restoration of trees remains the most effective method against climate change. But this won’t happen overnight.
More than 50 volunteers were on hand for the event in San Fernando.
Before going to work on Huntington Street, they first watched a demonstration given by the TreePeople staff on how to properly plant an evergreen tree. All eyes were on the experts, who showed the crowd how deep and wide to dig a hole for the tree, then make sure the tree would fit.
Cub Scouts from Pack 311 in Valley Village provided help by patting the soil and mulch down with their feet — securing the tree in place. After fitting the tree into the hole, staff hammered two stakes on the sides of the tree to keep it straight.
The stakes help protect the tree and support its growth. They are removed from the tree about one to two years after it was planted.
The last step in TreePeople’s process is giving the tree a name.
“Every tree that TreePeople have ever planted — and we have planted over three million trees since we’ve existed — every tree gets its name,” Montañez said. “The people in the community where the tree is planted get to name the tree.
“We have this ceremony where people gather around the tree, hold hands, and we say, ‘Trees need people and people need trees.’ We also say, ‘welcome’ to the name of the tree. It’s named by the community so everybody has that connection to that tree,” Montañez said.
She said even though the organization started this particular ritual, “There’s a lot of indigenous tradition here. Their communities were always connected to the Earth. And that’s what we were inspired by.”
Councilmember Sylvia Ballin, who attended the event, was pleased the tree planting was held on her street and named one of the new trees “Lone Pine” in honor of her parents Sarah and Augustine, who were married 74 years. Both parents recently passed away.
“The pine tree is very special to my family,” Ballin said. “My dad was raised in Lone Pine. My mom and dad loved pine cones and pine nuts.”
Along with Ballin, San Fernando Mayor Mary Mendoza and Councilmember Celeste T. Rodriguez were present.
“We thank you all for being here today,” Mendoza told the volunteers. “This is a great event for our community here. You’re going to make a difference in our lives here in the city and for many years to come. Thank you so much for coming out.”
The TreePeople organization will care for the trees for three years after they’ve been planted. Afterward, Montañez said the residents on Huntington Street have agreed to help maintain the trees.
“It is not required of them, but they’ve said they are willing to do things like water them and take care of them,” Montañez said.
Pam Gibson, TreePeople’s regional manager for the Northeast Valley, said that residents who agree to help maintain the new trees as they mature are left with a TreePeople watering bucket and a flier with information about the tree’s aftercare.
First is an understanding about soil and mulch; two to three inches of mulch should cover exposed soil around the base of the tree and that mulch should never be placed on the trunk of the tree since mulch planted with the tree would slowly rot and kill the tree.
Another step is caring for the stakes and the ties that hold them in place against the tree. The guidelines detail the importance of the location of the stakes and ties — the stake should be vertically outside of the root ball and the ties should lay in the lower half of the tree to allow for movement.
The last and probably most important step of aftercare is water.
Newly planted trees need 15 gallons of water once a week for the first three years then 15 gallons of water once a month, especially during the summer.
Caretakers must also be aware of signs of drought stress or over watering.
Although residents care for the tree(s) for most of the year, Gibson gathers volunteers for Tree Care events in the summer where they go out to communities and water, trim, and remove weeds from around the trees.
TheTreePeople’s next scheduled event in the City is Feb. 26. The organization — with volunteers and students from Cal State Pomona — will plant trees on Fourth Street. And on April 23, TreePeople will host an oak tree planting at the Rudy Ortega Sr. Park in collaboration with the Tataviam Tribe.
If you are interested in becoming a TreePeople volunteer or member, visit its website at treepeople.org.