Scores of trees now call Livingston home

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comApril 25, 2014 

— The steady rain that fell much of the morning on Friday, didn’t keep about 100 high school-aged volunteers from planting scores of saplings for Arbor Day.

The volunteers planted some of the more than 120 trees at three sites around Livingston this week, and they plan to put more than 200 more in the ground later this year.

“A lot of our parks are new,” said Jacquie Benoit, Livingston’s recreation superintendent. “So they have little to no (trees), or the trees are small.”

It’s common to see parents huddled around a few trees for shade during soccer or baseball games, she said. Extra trees will help to provide greater cover.

Benoit said crews planted ginkgo biloba, London plane, Chinese pistache, red sunset maple and California sycamore. Those species are disease resistant and drought tolerant, she said.

The city acquired a $37,767 grant last year from the Cal Fire Urban and Community Forestry program, which paid for the 347 trees to be planted this year.

Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza said the city is new to Arbor Day celebrations – this week is the city’s second – but has been making efforts to beautify the city and its downtown. He said it’s important that Main Street and city parks get spruced up with trees.

“It’s better for the environment, of course, and for shade in the city and in parks,” he said. “We’re going to put some more newer sidewalks with newer trees in the downtown this coming year.”

The city has worked, particularly in the past year, to improving the look of downtown. In June, the City Council, architects, urban designers, planners and economic development professionals met for several planning sessions to discuss ways to make Main Street more inviting.

Beautifying downtown and area parks Friday were volunteers from Livingston High. Some were FFA members and others were from the Key Club, a high school version of Kiwanis. Some of the student leaders have completed arborist training, so they knew the best way to plant a tree to ensure its survival.

Livingston High junior Juanita Chavez, 16, said it was fun “getting dirty” while working for a good cause.

Chavez and a handful of others had tips they learned from their arborist training:

• When planting a tree, dig a hole just deep enough so that the root crown, will sit just above ground level. Mix mulch with the dirt removed from the hole.

• When the tree is removed from the pot, gently loosen the compacted dirt of the root ball to ensure the roots are healthy and stretch outward.

• Once the tree is in the ground, make a wall of dirt a couple of inches high with a radius of about a foot that encircles the tree. This will prevent water runoff, away from the roots.

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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