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River Park NeighborWoods: A Blue Print for Success

By: Kate Riley (Volunteer Extrordinare)

October 1, 2016

If you don’t love trees already, you will learn to love them living in River Park. The soil is deep, rich and sandy, and trees grow to remarkable size in this rich alluvial plain.

I moved to River Park in 1986. My block was deeply shaded, mostly by Modesto ash trees planted when the homes were built in the early 1950’s. However, before the decade was up, my beautiful Modesto ash had to be removed because it was hollowed out by rot. Most of the ash trees on my block had perished from Anthracnose. I noticed other blocks in River Park also suffering from loss of canopy due to disease and poor, or no, arborist care.

For me, this was unacceptable. I understand the value of a tree and I couldn’t imagine my neighborhood devoid of these gentle sentinels. In 2014, I drafted proposal for an urban canopy program for River Park. I mentioned the idea to Todd Damiano, then President of the River Park Neighborhood Association Board (RPNA). He liked it and suggested I talk to the Board about it. I did, and asked the Board for their support – including having some Board Members be on the Project Advisory Committee.

In late 2014, the River Park Tree Canopy Project was born! With our own Community Forester, Matt Buland (who was raised in River Park and knew first-hand the benefits of River Park’s tree canopy), we were ready to address our tree priorities. At our first Steering Committee meeting in late 2014 at the Tree Foundation, Steve Johns, who works for SMUD, and served on the RPNA Board, suggested we do our first planting in February 2015. We worked closely with the RPNA, and with our Council Member, Jeff Harris, in planning the first event. Sign-ups were done on the RPNA website and, later, at community events such as the Pops in the Park and Fourth of July Festival. I’d like to think that our first try was a rousing success with 27 trees planted at 17 homes!

Since we had so much fun in February, we decided to have our second planting in November 2015 with 29 trees planted at 17 homes. Total, in year one, River Park was the lucky recipient of 56 trees at 34 homes! Our plans now are for annual plantings on the second Saturday in November. Our next planting is November 12.

I think if I was to give advice to folks who want to help build the tree canopy where they live, I’d say: work with your neighbors to build excitement and buy in. Healthy tree canopy equals a healthy community, so the more people you have on board the better! Reach out to the Tree Foundation early. Form a steering committee and get together to hash out what the goals are and who is doing what. Each time we do an activity I am so thrilled by the positive response. Folks love trees and they love working together to beautify their neighborhoods.

Many thanks to our first Steering Committee members Todd Damiano, Steve Johns, Kim Teague, Lee Ruth, Jan Wooley, Sydney Coatsworth, & Doug Leslie. Additionally, thank you to the River Park Garden Club and Council Member Jeff Harris who have signed on to be a co-sponsor of our Project. We couldn’t do it without you!

Perhaps you'd like the opportunity to grow and protect the forest in your very own neighborhood? Join tens of thousands of people across the nation who commit to making their communities greener and healthier through planting trees during the month of October! Keep your NeighborWoods vibrant!