Service, celebration, and how trees create community

By Canopy Team on February 6, 2017

Coming together around trees

Across traditions, societies, and centuries, trees have held special significance in the human imagination.

They are universal symbols, representing life, nourishment, resilience, and growth. It’s part of why trees feature so prominently in cultural traditions and celebrations around the world.

At Canopy, we’ve witnessed first-hand the power of trees and nature to bring people together. That’s why, 21 years ago, we started a special tradition of planting a new tree for each new Mayor in Palo Alto. Each January, the tree planting ceremony provides an opportunity to celebrate and unite around a nurturing symbol of stewardship and community.

Continuing and expanding a tradition

This year was no exception, and we were honored to welcome Palo Alto’s new mayor, Greg Scharff, with a ceremonial tree planting on Janaury 26th. 

We also instituted a new tradition, holding the second annual East Palo Alto Mayor’s Tree Planting, in conjunction with a community day of service.

Each celebration was special in its own way, and both brought together diverse communities of volunteers, neighbors, new friends, and civic leaders, all uniting around a common vision and purpose: to plant and grow a greener future for our communities.

Mayor Larry Mood (center left) and friends plant his ceremonial Chinese Elm.

East Palo Alto: Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

January 16th was a special day: the 31st Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday and Day of Service. It’s a day to reflect on MLK’s fight for justice and equality, and to honor his legacy of advocacy and service.

Canopy and friends marked the day with a community tree planting and the East Palo Alto Mayor’s Tree Planting. See photos from the day here.

Over 175 volunteers from at least 21 cities—including East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City, Fremont, and beyond—teamed up to plant 29 trees and many native landscape plants at Jack Farrell Park in East Palo Alto.

Volunteers also helped with park clean-up, collecting trash, spreading mulch, painting fences, and even scrubbing the park lighting fixtures.

During his ceremonial tree planting, new EPA Mayor Larry Moody thanked volunteers and welcomed newcomers to the community.

“We need to get back to those front porch and front yard conversations,” he said, encouraging everyone to continue serving and connecting with one another, across neighborhoods, cities, age groups, and cultures.

A community investment

The planting was stage one in a multi-phase plan to enhance and refresh this well-loved community gathering space.

In addition to natural landscaping, the City of East Palo Alto, in partnership with Canopy, plans to incorporate new pedestrian walks ways, hardscape features including a retaining wall, as well as benches and picnic tables.

“There’s so much potential here,” says Uriel Hernandez, Canopy’s Community Forestry Coordinator and East Palo Alto native. “We’re excited to help the community realize its vision of a welcoming, versatile, and refreshing public space that’s really their own.” Check out visuals of the proposed plan here (PDF).

Youth Leaders: Reflections from Canopy’s Teen Urban Foresters

Canopy’s Teen Urban Foresters were key leaders during the day, and had some observations of their own:

Eric Perez, a second year TUF, appreciated the sense of community that developed among volunteers. “I liked how there were people in my group who didn’t know each other at the beginning of the planting, but were friends by the end of it,” he says. And he loved, “the moment when we ran out of mulch…that meant that our planting had been very productive!”

Teen Urban Forest Eric Perez (in orange vest) poses with his tree planting crew.

Ana Maria, who joined the TUF team just a few weeks before the planting, quipped, “I learned that planting a tree is more than just digging a hole and putting in the tree.” (She’s right! Check out Canopy’s proven tree-planting method).

“The role of a leader is not to have other people follow you, but to create more leaders.” – Alex Quintanar, Teen Urban Forester

Alex Quintanar, a TUF since last September, was surprised and excited by the big turnout. “The number of people who actually care about trees and the environment [is] actually bigger than what I anticipated,” he mentions. “I also learned more about being a leader; the role of a leader is not to have other people follow you, but to create more leaders.

We think Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud of these wise young leaders, and of all the hardworking volunteers who came out to care for one another and for their community!

Palo Alto: Recognizing those who help grow trees—and so much more

Growing a vibrant urban forest wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of local volunteers, the support of community members, and the partnership of city governments.

Ten days after the MLK Day of Service, on January 26th, Canopy was thrilled to host our 21st Annual Palo Alto Mayor’s Tree Planting and celebrate the accomplishments of our 2017 Canopy Tree Awardees.

With their passion and dedication, these local heroes are doing the most important work there is: bringing people together to create a better future for all of us.

Palo Alto’s new Mayor, Greg Scharff, planted a Valley Oak outside the Mitchell Park Community Center, offering a reminder that trees are key to quality of life in Palo Alto and beyond.

Newly retired Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns planted a second ceremonial tree, as we thanked him for his 34+ years of service to the community.

After a time of fellowship and mingling with friends old and new, the true highlight of the evening came when 11 groups and individuals were presented with 2017 Canopy Tree Awards for their incredible efforts to grow and protect local urban forests.

Canopy was proud to recognize each awardee for championing local trees—but the awards are really about much more than that.

With their passion and dedication, these local heroes are doing the most important work there is: bringing people together to create a better future for all of us.

Read more about our awardees and their accomplishments…

See photos from the evening…

Sign up for local tree news, events, volunteer opportunities, and more.

Sign Up

Recent Posts