Q&A with Community Planting Leaders in Arden Park: Jane Hagedorn, Gregg Fishman, and Frank Moran
A NeighborWoods Story
November 4, 2016
Q: Why did you want
to plant trees in your neighborhood through the NeighborWoods initiative? What was it about trees specifically that
motivated you to get involved?
My interest in trees
began in 1985 when I became a reporter for KFBK Radio. I was assigned to cover
tree plantings with the Sacramento Tree Foundation—a relatively new
organization at the time. I was surprised to see that there was an organization
dedicated to the urban forest in Sacramento. Over the years, I covered many
tree plantings and various milestones.
I was also interested to learn
that the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) was supporting the
Sacramento Tree Foundation’s efforts. They kept talking about a “conservation
power plant” and that trees could help people use less energy in their homes
and by conserving, we could all help reduce pollution.
Fast forward a few years, and I
found myself working for SMUD as a public information officer. One of my tasks
was to publicize SMUD’s partnership with the Sacramento Tree Foundation. The
concept of a “conservation power plant” was old hat by then, but we had proven
research that shows how trees help reduce air pollution, and manage storm-water
runoff, and improve the ambiance of a neighborhood. And trees reduce the “urban
heat island” effect—where the cityscape of concrete and asphalt hold in the
heat from summer.
Because I love trees!
Arden Park is a very defined neighborhood.
It’s been around for a long time. It has deep roots and people are passionate
about living there. It was a community of trees – but mostly a monoculture of Ash.
They initially worked quite nicely. But, after 60-70 years, they were starting
to die, in large part because of the monoculture as disease spreads quickly. It
was clear our neighborhood was in trouble. We had to replace over 3,000 street
What happens is that
Modesto Ash gets mistletoe, which kills the tree. The Modesto Ash lasted pretty
long, and we still have a lot of them, but they’re dying quite rapidly.
Q: How exactly did
you contribute to your NeighborWoods project? What was your role as a
volunteer? What were some the successes and challenges your neighborhood
experienced? Were you able to overcome those challenges together?
In 2001, our
neighborhood, Arden Park, began working with the Sacramento Tree Foundation to
replant our front yard trees with several varieties that live longer. Each
fall, we “market” the program through signs, a letter, our local Park District
newsletter, and more recently through the online network known as Nextdoor.
We partner with the Tree
Foundation. So, once we have 20-30 addresses where the residents are interested
in new trees, the Foundation conducts site visits [with their Community
Foresters] and helps each homeowner determine where to plant and what varieties
of trees are best. On Arden Park Tree Day (one Sunday in the fall) families
from the neighborhood and STF
volunteers gather to help plant trees and spread mulch.
We all pitched in and
recruited our neighbors to help. Was it easy? No. Sometimes it was really hard.
This was all very informal too. We had no bylaws or official minutes at our
The soil in Arden Park is clay
and hardpan, so digging holes is really hard. We quickly realized we needed a
backhoe. We did have to do some fundraising to get it because backhoes are
Frank would organize and lead
the backhoe as it drove around to the different houses [where the trees would
be planted] to dig the holes in those yards beforehand.
Q: What was the
overall outcome of your NeighborWoods project? How many trees did you plant,
how did people react, and how many people benefited from the project? Were
there any benefits that you didn’t expect?
It’s such a great pleasure
walking down the street in my neighborhood and seeing 2,000 new trees planted
over 15 years of annual events. It makes me feel really good. It makes everyone
feel really good.
Neighbors have become pretty used
to the NeighborWoods plantings. It all seems like magic! Some Ash trees die and
they get replaced. Everyone’s happy.
Most people know about the plantings now.
There’re about 1,600 homes in our
neighborhood, and a lot of them benefited. Most of the trees we planted have
thrived and gotten pretty big. We focused on big trees, like Valley Oaks, too.
When you plant trees, wonderful
things happen. Arden Park looks rejuvenated. What would have happened if 3,000
Ash trees died off and there was no effort to replace them? Knowing Arden Park
is still a community of trees is very rewarding.
While we have a long way
to go before we replace all the Modesto Ash trees, we have a process in place
to save the tree canopy that makes our neighborhood so great for walking,
biking and other outdoor activities.
Our tree canopy provides many
benefits—better air quality, reduced storm runoff, cooler summer temperatures,
and reduced need for air conditioning. It also helps increase property values.
So, there are a lot of reasons we keep planting trees. It’s good for the
neighborhood, it’s good for the region, it’s good for my children, and it’s
good for me personally too. I get to drive through the neighborhood and point
out all the tree’s I’ve helped plant.
We planted 150 trees a
year for first two years. That’s because people had the same interest in
preserving our canopy. We just went from there. It’s getting a little harder
now because most [residents of Arden Park] already have trees. Now we’re
planting 30 a year.
I can identify all the trees I
planted, including the one in my yard. They’re getting big! I have a Red Maple
and a Modesto Ash.
Q: What advice would
you have for other members of our community? What would you say to them to
inspire them to lead or get involved in a NeighborWoods project in their
Get together with a small
group of people that are committed to what you want to do. Some neighborhoods
don’t have the same tree problems, but there are lots of neighborhoods with Ash
trees that aren’t doing very well. You need to have a shared vision and you
need to be okay with asking for help from your neighbors and the Tree
We made signs, put announcements in
newsletters, and talked to our neighbors to get people involved, but we weren’t
reaching everyone. So, we recruited volunteers and visited every household in
our neighborhood. We put hangers on doors that said “It looks like you could
use a tree” or “Your tree is looking great” – and it worked. Now we write personal
letters to everyone who has an Ash tree removed by the County.
Most importantly, JUST DO IT. If it rains, plant. If you don’t have a ton of people involved
– that’s okay – just plant where people are initially interested. Even if you
don’t meet all your goals, people will be happy because they planted trees. No
matter what, you’ll benefit.
What I tell my kids is this: How do
you get something done? Tackle it one bite at a time. We worked with some
amazing volunteers, and it was clear to all of us that planting more trees
would be good for Arden Park.
Just try walking down a street with
trees and a street without. You’ll notice the difference.
You have to have a strong
leader who isn’t bashful about asking people in their neighborhood to get the
program going and support it. That’s key, I think.
We need to do a better job of
recruiting volunteers from within our neighborhood too. Now that everyone has
their own tree, the volunteers have dried up a little bit. We need to
reinvigorate our volunteers. We’re working on it though.
Thank you again,
Gregg and Jane, and best of luck with
Arden Park’s next community planting
on Sunday, November 6!