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2016-2017: A Tree-mendous Year for Volunteerism

By Jason Sullivan-Halpern, Volunteer Specialist

July 1, 2017

Summer has officially arrived, and all of us here at SacTree are already busy preparing for another exciting planting season to begin in October. In the meantime, we thought this would be the best time to reflect on all our volunteers’ accomplishments over the last 12 months (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017). Since there are many to consider, we’ve decided to share just the top 5 with you. 

1. Boosting Community Engagement
SacTree’s volunteer team was super active throughout the planting season. In total, over 1,500 volunteers spent 4,724+ hours of their time planting and caring for trees across our region as part of our Community Shade, NeighborWoods, and NATURE programs (as well as performing important administrative tasks for them), contributing an estimated $162,317 in services to our community! These numbers don’t tell the whole story though: the playgrounds, picnic areas, and buildings at our busy parks and schools are now more comfortable thanks to increased shade; habitat that was once lost to development has been reclaimed for thousands of species of local wildlife; neighborhoods are now more walkable, increasing home values and providing more opportunities for socializing, exercising, and shopping; and, the overall air and water quality of our region has improved. These impressive transformations wouldn’t be possible without many helping hands. SacTree is truly a volunteer-driven organization.

2. NeighborWoods Expansion
Arden Park’s and River Park’s annual NeighborWoods tree planting events with SacTree once again mobilized dozens and dozens of community members to increase their canopies through planting trees at individual homes. The City of Rancho Cordova also kicked off its own NeighborWoods tree planting program, successfully hosting events with SacTree in Lincoln Village Community Park, Prospect Hill Park, the Sunriver neighborhood, and the Cordova Meadows and Gardens neighborhoods. Our NeighborWoods program to target low tree canopy neighborhoods in South Sacramento made serious progress too: SacTree planted shade and fruit trees with our community partners at Fruitridge Manor, Samuel Kennedy Elementary School, Will C. Wood Middle School, and the Mack Road – Valley High Community Center. Seeing so many passionate members of our community come together to build healthier, more livable neighborhoods of the future was by far the greatest success though. Their spirit of teamwork was palpable.

3. Reforestation of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
Before Stone Lakes became a federal wildlife refuge, it wasn’t much more than dusty patches of retired farmland along Interstate 5 in Elk Grove. Today, it is quickly becoming a blossoming oasis for over 200 species of birds as well as deer, rabbits, otters, foxes, tree frogs, turtles, snakes, and more thanks to the native trees, shrubs, and grasses SacTree’s volunteer team has planted and stewarded there over the last 3 years. In the last 12 months alone, 250 volunteers spent almost 700 hours planting 1,263 more native oaks across the refuge as well as irrigating, weeding, and tending the shrubs and trees they planted around its Visitor’s Center. These trees are small now, since they were seedlings when planted, but soon will compose an entire forest which will stand tall, leafy, and beautiful for generations to come.

4. Building the Bear River Habitat Trail
The Bear River Habitat Trail began as a vision: develop a 5-mile-long biking and walking path along Highway 70 that will connect neighborhoods around Plumas Lake and provide much-needed habitat for Yuba County’s wildlife. As a result of 200 volunteers spending almost 600 hours planting 2,500 more native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and bulbs along the trail this year, this vision will soon become a reality. The trail is now home to more than 5,000 plants, which will be mulched, irrigated, weeded, and protected by SacTree volunteers until they’re a little more established so the trail can be opened to the general public. Although, volunteers are more than welcome to check it out in the meantime to see all the progress we’ve made!

5. Saving Sacramento’s Elms with STEP
Dutch elm disease (DED), a fungal disease with no known cure, is still decimating American and English elms across Sacramento. Our team of volunteer Citizen Scientists with our Save The Elms Program (STEP) has been indispensable in slowing its spread though, preserving the environmental, social, economic, and health benefits of our elms as long as possible. 50 trained STEP Citizen Scientists monitored 750+ public elms for DED in 2016 and 85 STEP Citizen Scientists have already monitored 662 public elms this year, keeping us well on track to meet our goal of monitoring 1,100 public elms (half the total population) by October 2017. Public elms showing symptoms of DED reported by STEP Citizen Scientists to SacTree through Greenprint Maps are subsequently tested by the City’s Urban Forestry Department. If DED is confirmed, the only way the City can stop the disease from spreading to neighboring elms is by pruning or removing the diseased elms as soon as possible. Since the City’s arborists cannot keep their eyes on every public elm in Sacramento, given there are so many trees needing their attention, our passionate and dedicated team of STEP Citizen Scientists are absolutely necessary to managing DED city-wide.

We look forward to growing and protecting our urban forest even further this next planting season.Grab a shovel and get dirty with us! Remember, you can RSVP for any of our volunteer opportunities as an individual or a group on our website. Together, let’s ensure that our region remains the best urban forest in the nation!

Special Thanks to the Following Groups for Volunteering:
The Sacramento Maharlika Lions Club (and the Lions Club District 4-C5), Sierra Club Sacramento, Sacramento River Cats (“Cats Care”), Booz Allen Hamilton, VSP, SMUD, Young Life, SCC's Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, CSUS' Lambda Theta Phi, CSUS’ Environmental Student Organization (ESO), CSUS’ Circle K International, CSUS' Alphi Phi Omega, Kappa Sigma Chapter, UCD's Alpha Phi Omega, Iota Phi Chapter, LDS California Sacramento Mission, The Light of the World Church, The Fair Oaks Youth Advisory Board, AmeriCorps NCCC, Wheatland Union High School, Franklin High School’s Key Club, Monterey Trail High School Key Club, Cub Scout Pack #310, Cub Scout Pack #225, Boy Scout Troop #68, Girl Scout Troop #569-30, Daisy Scout Troop #232, The Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, and FedEx Ground’s Sacramento Hub