Tree people unite

Valley College’s Eco Advocates Club, together with ASU, TreePeople and volunteers, helped maintain Valley’s trees at the Urban Forestry Project event Friday.

By Ricardo Varela, Editor-in-chief

The vegetation populating Valley College’s Fulton Avenue entrance received fresh mulch, water and maintenance from more than 50 volunteers at Friday morning’s Urban Forestry Project event hosted by the Eco Advocates Club.

Valley’s Eco Advocates Club worked with LA-based nonprofit environmental advocacy organization TreePeople for two months to bring the event to campus. Some environmental studies and science classes offered extra credit for participating in the event, and it was open to the public.

“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with LAVC, mostly working with the Eco Advocates,” TreePeople’s Senior Manager of Forestry Projects Danny Carmichael said.

Volunteers gathered in front of the campus’s Library & Academic Resource Center, where the group was split into maintenance and mapping crews. TreePeople’s Youth Leadership Manager, Enjoli Ferrari, gave the maintenance crew a tree mulching and watering demonstration. She asked volunteers to pour at least 15 gallons of water onto each tree’s roots after mulching, adding that trees often need more water than one realizes.

“The mulch was obtained completely free from the City of Los Angeles,” Ferrari said. “It’s composed of a blend of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.”

Twenty-one-year-old Eco Advocates member and environmental science major Anahi Rizo shoveled mulch into buckets that were being distributed to other volunteers from the visitor parking lot.

“The trees are getting a spa day today,” Rizo said.

The landscape in front of the LARC needed upkeep. Several trees’ bark exhibited gashes from tree ties, and volunteers discovered a variety of trash and some plants were dried out.

“Seeing unmulched trees is like, ‘Oh my god!'” TreeMapLA coordinator Virdiana Auger-Velez said. “It’s great that people are invested in the care of the natural beauty that is here.”

Carmichael and Auger-Velez taught the mapping crew to use the TreeMapLA app. Volunteers added each tree’s trunk circumference, species and location to a map in the application, where a virtual catalog of the campus’s mapped trees can be browsed through. The app services the entire Los Angeles region, and the mapping data added on Friday advanced the Eco Advocates eventual goal of documenting the entire campus.

TreeMapLA keeps a running tally of each tree’s energy conservation, air quality benefits, storm water retention and how much carbon dioxide it has retained based on the information input by mappers.

“We’re using it as a community engagement tool, as well as an educational tool,” Carmichael said. “It’s good for people who walk around their neighborhood and say to themselves, ‘I’ve always wondered what that tree was.’”

Volunteers mulched and mapped until 11:30 a.m. when the bulk of the work was completed. Eco Advocates and ASU members, as well as Ferrari, stayed a few minutes longer to gather excess foliage and to make cosmetic changes to the landscaping. Valley’s facilities department provided bins for the refuse, which they later hauled away.

“Everything seemed to go well, better than I expected,” Eco Advocates’ president Adrian Covarrubias said. “I’d like to build a culture of student learning and community building on campus. I’m really excited for Arbor Day. We’re giving away scholarships in an art contest.”

Cal Fire, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, provided funding for the event via a grant to TreePeople; Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market provided additional funding for the event.

“Cal Fire has a generous urban forestry program,” Carmichael said. “They provided the initial grants to build and expand TreeMapLA.”

Valley is the only community college in California to hold the designation of Tree Campus USA from the Arbor Day Foundation, which it was awarded in March 2012, retroactive to 2011. The Arbor Day Foundation press release announcing this states that, “Los Angeles Valley College achieved the designation by meeting the required five core standards for sustainable campus forestry: a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and the sponsorship of student service-learning projects.”


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