Celebrating a Milestone: 20 Years and Growing

By Canopy Team on March 7, 2016

From the desk of Executive Director Catherine Martineau

Canopy celebrates our 20th anniversary and looks to the future of urban forests.

Catherine Martineau

In January, Canopy kicked off our 20th year growing healthy trees and healthy communities by celebrating with more than 150 friends at our annual party (see photos) at the Lucie Stern Community Center in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto’s new Mayor, Pat Burt, and Santa Clara Supervisor Joe Simitian were both honored with ceremonial trees, which will continue to grace the lawn at Lucie Stern. Our 2016 Canopy Tree Award winners received well-deserved awards for their contributions to the urban forest.

20 years of making a difference

We also took a moment to thank our friends and supporters for all that they’ve made possible over the last two decades.

Cristy with 20th banner

Since 1996, Canopy has grown from a small group of dedicated Palo Alto residents into a sector-leading independent nonprofit with a regional vision: a day when every resident of the Mid-Peninsula can step outside to walk, play, and thrive under the shade of healthy trees.

Thanks to our volunteers and supporters, we’re already bringing this vision to life. Through planting, tree care, education and advocacy, we’ve helped Palo Alto become a national example of a city that cares for its trees, and reaps the benefits of a vibrant urban forest.

10 years ago, we put down roots in neighboring East Palo Alto, and have since planted over 2,000 trees in East Palo Alto schools, parks and neighborhoods, transforming barren streets and schoolyards into welcoming environments full of nature and greenery.

Through tree walks, workshops, lectures, school programs, and more, we’ve equipped thousands of youth and adults to plant and care for urban trees, and inspired a new generation of nature stewards.

All of this has been possible thanks to our dedicated volunteers, donors, Board members, advisors, staff, and partners, all working together.

We’re proud of these achievements, but we know our work isn’t done yet.

With our partners by our side, we’re ready to tackle new challenges with the same determination and team spirit that got us where we are today.

Taking stock: A critical moment for the environment

2015 saw a tipping point for the global environment, from Pope Francis’ encyclical stressing our moral imperative to care for the earth to the unprecedented global climate change agreement in Paris. It was also the hottest year on record, with many extreme weather events, including the prolonged drought and wildfires in California.

It was also a critical moment for our local environment. A fourth year of drought took a toll on urban trees and ecosystems, with tree mortality rates shooting up across the Mid-Peninsula.

At the same time, we celebrated a key policy victory when the Palo Alto City Council adopted our region’s first Urban Forest Master Plan. This landmark document provides a blueprint for comprehensive, sustainable management of Palo Alto’s urban forest for decades to come.

Collaboration is key for the future

In the face of these new challenges and opportunities, collaboration is key. To successfully fight climate change and steward our shared natural resources, we must work together–across disciplines, sectors, and geographic boundaries.

As our region becomes increasingly urbanized, trees have a unique and powerful role to play in creating sustainable, livable cities where people and nature thrive.

For Canopy, this means examining our work through the broader lens of urban sustainability. As our region becomes increasingly urbanized, trees have a unique and powerful role to play in creating sustainable, livable cities where people and nature thrive.

We’re eager to use our deep knowledge of the urban forest to enhance and sustain the whole urban ecosystem. But we can’t do it alone. We’re reaching out to new partners whose strengths and expertise complement our own. With their help–and with yours–we’ve got big plans for the next few years.

In the next few years, we commit to:

  • Continue planting drought-tolerant trees where they’re needed most. We’re starting with a new 5-year initiative to plant 1,000 new trees at schools, in parks, and along streets — not only in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, but also in Redwood City, Menlo Park, and Mountain View. We’ll grow our environmental education programs to serve these communities, too.
  • Work collaboratively to implement Palo Alto’s Urban Forest Master Plan. In partnership with the City of Palo Alto, Audubon Society, Acterra Stewardship, the California Native Plant Society, and other local voices, we’ll work to ensure that the Urban Forest Master Plan supports the health and resilience of the entire urban ecosystem. We’ll incorporate more native and climate-adapted trees, restoring native oaks in particular, to create healthier habitat for people as well as wildlife.
  • Consider the whole ecosystem in more of our plantings, as we partner with other experts to design and implement plantings that include both trees and complementary, drought-tolerant landscape plants.
  • Bridge the canopy disparity between north and south Palo Alto. We’re currently working with the City to understand the causes of the north-south canopy cover disparity, and to find solutions. The City cannot close the canopy gap on its own; there are simply not enough planting sites in the public right of way. We’re working on a plan to engage residents, schools, and businesses in planting more drought-tolerant, native, and climate-adapted trees on both public and private property in south Palo Alto.

The continued health of our urban trees, our environment, and our planet depends on the commitment of all of us working together.

Thanks to all of you for being part of the solution!

Catherine Martineau
Executive Director

Learn how to Get Involved with Canopy. See photos from the annual party. Read about 2016 Canopy Tree Award Winners.

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