The Transformation of Trees

By Canopy Team on December 11, 2017

Written by Aaron Rudolf

When trees are planted, you do not get results quickly, as trees grow year-by-year and environmental changes take time. Luckily, over the last fifteen years Canopy has documented the growth of the trees they have planted, highlighting how the community can work together to make a difference with the environment!

Brentwood: a community comes together

In 2012, Canopy hosted one of our biggest plantings yet that attracted nearly 500 volunteers comprised largely of students and their families, the community, and Microsoft. As part of Canopy’s Healthy Trees!, Healthy Kids! Initiative, the volunteers helped to plant 109 trees at the Brentwood campus in East Palo Alto.

While this is the main effort we’ve completed at Brentwood, it was not the first. Plantings at Brentwood began back in 2008 when we planted the first three trees with several kindergarten classes. After this initial visit, we returned in October 2012 for additional trees and maintenance.

Five years later, the campus is transformed with the shade of healthy trees that provide greenery and nearby nature for the students.

Brentwood Elementary before the tree planting

Brentwood Elementary with newly planted trees in 2012

Brentwood Elementary in 2017

Cesar Chavez Elementary School: adding life to the black top

In response to the success at Brentwood campus, Canopy was encouraged to expand tree plantings to even more campuses in the Ravenswood City School District. In 2013, 25 trees were planted at the Cesar Chavez campus as part of Canopy’s initiative to plant 1,000 shade and fruit trees at underserved schools.

With the planting of these trees, Canopy’s goal was to bring shade and nature to the barren blacktop of the campus. With the help of over 65 volunteers, we were able to plant all of the trees, as well as install an innovative irrigation system to conserve water and reduce the costs of traditional irrigation systems. It is clear that these trees will be loved and cared for, for many years to come.

Cesar Chavez Elementary School before trees were planted

Cesar Chavez Elementary School three years after the trees were planted

Cesar Chavez Elementary School in 2017

Costaño Elementary: a booming haven for trees

The Costaño Elementary is an ongoing project that began on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2012 to plant more than 49 trees! The turnout for this project was magnificent, with more than 80 parents, students, and volunteers coming together to plant trees that will provide shade and fruit for the students, make a lasting difference for generations to come.

The Costaño Elementary is part of Canopy’s Healthy Trees!, Healthy Kids! Initiative to transform schoolyards into areas that are healthier and more connected, helping to create more resilient communities. Research has shown that schools with greenery improve student well-being and academic achievement. Not only do trees improve the scenic look of a location, but they also foster connection, discovery, and stewardship of the natural world.

Costaño Elementary in 2013

Costaño Elementary in 2014

Costaño Elementary in 2017

California Ave: a community that celebrates greenery

Switching gears to California Avenue in Palo Alto, Canopy was instrumental in a planting effort to replace trees lost in a span of a few days.

The California Avenue project began when businesses on the avenue decided to revitalize and renew the street. This included the replanting of sick trees and an update to the original 1950’s streetscape plan of trees. The new plan was formed in 2005, however a grant was not funded, leading to a halt of the planning.

When the initial construction finally began, a pared down project plan resulted in the removal of all the trees at once. During the infamous month of September 2009, all 63 trees on California Ave were removed with no explanation or public announcement.

This action sparked outrage within the community, as the once ecologically vibrate street with many trees now contained none. Concerned residents formed a vocal Ad-Hoc Citizen’s Group to represent the public’s interests, and to scrutinize and influence next steps. The Palo Alto City council reached out to Canopy to help solve the crisis, asking Canopy to create a new planting design and lead the planting of Cal Avenue.

Canopy’s top priority became the planting of Cal Ave, reaching out to the public for assistance and spreading awareness of the issue at hand. On January 30, 2010, Canopy organized a citywide community replanting and celebration for California Ave. Over 150 volunteers turned out to replant over 65 trees. The street is well on its way to recovery and continues to flourish in 2017.

Cal Ave in 2009 (Image via CBS San Francisco)

Cal Ave in 2014 (Image via Google Maps)

Cal Ave in 2017

East and West Bayshore: soundwall trees

With over 1,200 trees consisting of 20 different species, the East Palo Alto Tree Initiative project is one of the largest ongoing projects in Canopy. Launched by Canopy in 2005, the initiative was created to assist the City of East Palo in enhancing their urban forest. As part of this effort, Canopy committed to planting 1,000 trees by 2011. With the guidance of East Palo Alto’s Public Works staff, Canopy was able to develop planting plans for the identified priority areas.

One area of East Palo Alto that was identified as a priority planting areas was the frontage roads, East and West Bayshore, adjacent to the Highway 101 sound walls.

The design concept for the soundwall plantings was to plant trees that could be trained to grow and branch above the soundwall, thus providing canopy over the frontage roads. Since most of the trees would be pruned so that branches up to about 10’ would be removed, Canopy decided to intersperse smaller trees between the larger, to fill in the gaps to provide better soundwall screening. The tree species that were selected were drought-tolerant, to ensure successful establishment for longevity.

West Bayshore in 2007

West Bayshore in 2008

West Bayshore in 2017

Make a Difference and Plant a Tree!

With the help of the Mid-Peninsula community, Canopy has been able to shape these once barren locations into lush green sanctuaries for all to enjoy. Yet these plantings would not have been possible without the help of our wonderful volunteers and donors. Join Canopy and get involved by volunteering to help our continued effort to bring trees to schools, parks, and neighborhoods of the Mid-Peninsula!

Aaron Rudolf, Digital Outreach Intern, started volunteering for Canopy in September 2017. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Pacific Lutheran University where he studied History with a Business minor. Introduced to nature at a young age, his love for the environment and technology kindled the desire to bring change through employing environmental restoration and outreach.

Alongside Canopy, Aaron works at a tech company where he develops skills and gains experience in his field of work. He enjoys traveling and exploring new environments around the world.






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

Sign Up

Recent Posts