In a combined celebration of Earth Day and Arbor Day, 800 Santa Clarans—600 of them kindergarten through fourth grade children from Don Callejon, Scott Lane, and Hughes Elementary schools—gathered in a circle of trees in the gardens of the Triton Museum on April 29 to honor their loftiest of friends—trees—with songs and original poetry. The tree canopies stirred above them in a gentle breeze on the sunny morning.
“Trees, trees, here and there/ Pine, oak, birch, all sorts of them/ What wonderful trees,” read Dylon, one of the Don Callejon third graders who read a haiku or limerick to the crowd of mostly young tree lovers.
The children already understand the priceless value of trees. “I think trees help us live because they produce oxygen. They’re really good, so people should not cut them down,” says Don Callejon third grader Alexis.
“Trees clean up our air, so we can breathe fresh air. If it wasn’t for trees, we wouldn’t be alive,” says her classmate Ahileen.
“Trees keep the sun out of our eyes, and they give us food, fruit for people to eat,” says Hughes fourth grader Antroine, whose favorite fruit tree is the cherry.
“I enjoy climbing trees,” says fourth grader Kendall, on spring break from St. Philip Lutheran School in Dublin. “They’re good to make stuff out of—wooden stuff—canoes, log cabins, totem poles.”
“We’re trying to develop future leaders of our city—of the country—and instill the things that are important, such as how to take care of the environment,” says city arborist John Mendoza, reflecting on the 2011 Arbor Day celebration.
The celebration opened with the presentation to the City of its 24th Tree City USA award by Battalion Chief Darrel Wolfe, California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection. Santa Clara is one of 160 California cities (out of 478) to earn this designation from the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org) in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters.
Entertainment included magician extraordinaire Phil Ackerly, ventriloquist Steve Chaney, and jazz musician Ike Cosse. Everyone was treated to lunch on the grass, prize drawings, educational exhibits, and free tree seedlings. Smokey the Bear and the San Jose Giants mascot Gigante posed for photos.
One of the requirements to be designated a Tree City USA is to foster public awareness of the importance of trees through events such as the Arbor Day celebration, which was made possible thanks to help and donations from individuals, local businesses, and service organizations.
“We want to have trees for a lot of reasons,” Mendoza reminds us. “The City recognizes the value of mature tree stands for their ability to reduce air pollution, noise pollution, and storm water run-off and to direct or reflect heat. They reduce the need for air conditioners in the summer, and deciduous trees let in light in the winter. This reduces electricity use and energy bills.”
“We understand the aesthetic value of trees and their ability to increase property value. Houses with mature trees are valued higher when sold,” continues Mendoza. “Wild life live in the trees as well.”
By now, you’re probably thinking that you could use another tree in your yard. Here’s good news: According to senior tree foreman Steve Banuelos, the City will give you a free tree, plant it in the City right of way in front of your house, and keep it pruned. Contact the Tree Division, (408) 615-3080, for details.