A grant to plant: Nonprofits will beautify parts of city with more than 450 trees
Fathers & Families of San Joaquin and a host of volunteers will be spending the next several weeks turning a vacant lot at the corner of Lafayette and Sutter streets into an urban forest the entire community can enjoy.
The nonprofit organization recently was awarded a grant of about $50,000 from CalFire’s Urban and Community Forestry program.
The grant will allow Fathers & Families of San Joaquin to plant 261 trees — including honey locust, valley oaks and valley elms — in an effort to reduce hundreds of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Father and Families of San Joaquin was one of 11 organizations to be awarded urban forestry grants. One other group in San Joaquin County received grant money. PUENTES, which runs the Boggs Tract Farm, received a grant to plan 143 trees.
“This is all part of a larger climate investment,” Fathers & Families Executive Director Sammy Nuñez said. “Climate change is real, and for us it’s about Stockton and our region playing a role in it. This is about our opportunity to breathe clean air and drink clean water.”
Gilbert Martinez, health justice director for Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, said the nonprofit initially wanted to create a community garden that consisted of just vegetation.
The organization began applying for a California ReLeaf grant in order to fund the project. Initially, the plan was to plant aesthetically pleasing trees such as fruits and palms, but program standards for improving the environment caused Martinez and fellow staffers to rethink their application.
“While applying for this grant, we found that while a lot of these fruit trees are beneficial and provide food and nourishment, they don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as we had assumed,” he said. “When we first went out for this grant, we only lowered 23.2 metric tons of greenhouse gasses, which felt really fell short of (the program’s) expectation of about 500 metric tons.”
Further research found honey locust and valley oaks and elms were the best species to help reduce greenhouse gasses in California, he said. In opting to plant these species, Martinez said the project will most likely reduce about 561 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next four years.
About a dozen trees will be planted at the 150-foot-by-50-foot lot, which was donated to Fathers & Families by the property owner.
Martinez said a eucalyptus tree will be the central piece of the project, to be surrounded about a dozen honey locust, valley oak and valley elm saplings, as well as planter boxes housing a variety of plants and vegetation.
The remainder of the 241 trees that can’t be planted on the lot will be given away to residents, Martinez said.
Planting will begin Friday, and Martinez said 50 volunteers from University of the Pacific will be out at the project site to help. In addition, the Franklin High School baseball team will spend a day helping on the project, as will the Edison High School softball team, Martinez said.
Nuñez said some of the youngsters who have suffered past trauma that his organization helps have gravitated toward working in an existing garden the nonprofit has set up.
He’s expecting a constant flow of volunteers to help plant the trees in the coming weeks.
“There’s something very therapeutic about planting things and about growing something,” he said. “It’s got kind of a triple bottom line to it. It’s good for yourself, good for your community, and its’ good to give out to the rest of the folks that enjoy the amenities.”
The nonprofit hopes to have a grand opening for the project on Earth Day, April 22.
If the project is successful, Fathers & Families hopes to plant more trees in other parts of the city in the future.
“We felt that number was a good one to start off, because we don’t want this grant to just be the end point,” Martinez said. “We want this to be a platform which we continue to jump off from.”
PUENTES is planning to use its grant as part of an Earth Day Arboranza. The idea, according to organizers, is to restore the tree canopy in Boggs Tract, and organizers are asking community members to come out on April 22 to help plant trees. Organizers hope to add 200 trees to the area over the next two years.
Training will be provided in English and Spanish for planting, pruning and maintenance, and refreshments will be served. There will also be a raffle for a fruit tree for someone’s home or office, along with assistance for planting and care, organizers said.