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Our City Forest Greening the Valley for 20 Years

Our City Forest Greening the Valley for 20 Years

How green is our valley?

Our City Forest is an urban forestry nonprofit long rooted in the Santa Clara Valley. Over the two decades since it was founded in 1994, it has been directly responsible for the planting and financing–through state and federal grants and donations– of some 65,000 large shade trees throughout the greater San Jose area. Advice alone has been given to plant countless additional trees.

With California in the midst of on–going drought, Our City Forest President and CEO Rhonda Berry advises residents to monitor and take care of their mature trees and keep planting new ones.


“Trees improve our quality of life in all ways–economical, health, environmental, social, psychological,” says Berry. “Trees are our number one defense to fight climate change, and nothing is more important during a drought than watering mature trees.”

“We’ve invested in decades of growth in our trees, and if we let them go because of drought, we’ve lost an incredible value,” she cautions.

Part of the mission of Our City Forest is to educate people about urban forestry through programs at schools, classes at its nursery and volunteer opportunities.

Since its founding, OCF has engaged more than 160,000 volunteers–including trained Tree Amigos, students, business people on team–building outings and AmeriCorps members–to carry out its mission of greening the Valley. Participants in the Access Community Day Program and Green Oak Development Center are among the special needs volunteers.

“We involve people in everything we do because we believe engagement is a key to a healthy urban forest, to the cultivation of a greener, healthier metropolis,” says Berry.

In Santa Clara, OCF volunteers planted trees at Henry Schmidt, Thamien and Bracher Parks; Central Park Library; and this past March, at Sutter Elementary School. They monitor the trees until they are established in three to five years.

Our City Forest has an inventory of 11,000 to 12,000 trees of more than 100 varieties, and between 100 and 200 varieties of shrubs available to the public for a suggested donation. Nearly 2,000 of its trees are in 15–gallon pots at its nursery and ready for planting.

Our City Forest Greening the Valley for 20 Years

“We opened the nursery so that we could have a greater variety of trees and have control over their quality and growth,” says Ben Heistein, nursery manager and arborist. “Diversity is important in an urban forest.”

People volunteer with OCF for a variety of reasons, from community service and career training to the simple pleasure of working outdoors in nature.

“Volunteering in the nursery, you see the cycle of life. It makes me feel part of it,” says 10–year volunteer Carol Arnoldy. “This is a neat place.”

“It’s beautiful out here. It’s fun,” says Judi Wilson, a volunteer for 17 years. “I love trees. We need them because we have global warming going on.”

OCF’s two–acre nursery, which uses only recycled water, is open to the public Thursdays through Saturdays, 9 a.m. to noon. County residents can select trees, shrubs, perennials and native grasses and get planting and care advice. A tree recipient needs to fill out an application and sign a stewardship pledge.

Drought or no drought, “Always plant. All healthy urban forests have trees of all ages. You need to keep planting,” says Berry.

Our City Forest’s Spring Plant Sale Extravaganza, with special kids’ activities, is May 9th, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at its nursery, 1000 Spring Street, near Hedding Street at the south end of Mineta San Jose International Airport.

Visit for information, including on volunteering and making donations. High on the wish list is a used pickup.


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