Where would you plant 300 cherry blossom trees in Sacramento?

12/28/2013 12:00 AM

10/22/2014 2:26 PM

Sacramento is a city of trees. But cherry trees?

That could be the next step, with a group of local political leaders and tree advocates proposing to create an urban park of up to 300 cherry trees planted in a line to serve as the centerpiece of an annual festival and impromptu gatherings.

The proposed park would be called a Hanami Line in tribute to the Japanese custom of gathering under cherry trees during the annual spring blossom. Promoters of the idea said they are aiming to take advantage of Sacramento’s and California’s strong ties to Japanese heritage.

“The idea here is to have a linear urban park that’s unique and around which a lot of activity can flow,” said political strategist Joe Rodota, one of the driving forces of the idea.

The tree park would anchor “Sakuramento,” the concept for an annual monthlong festival coinciding with the spring cherry tree blossom that would celebrate Japanese art, music and food. The March event, with the first one planned for 2015, would be based on the national cherry blossom festival held each year in Washington, D.C.

Sakuramento is a mash-up of the Japanese word for cherry blossom, sakura, and Sacramento.

Before the festival can be held, the group organizing the event is seeking ideas for where to plant the park. Those ideas can be submitted to the Sacramento Tree Foundation at www.sactree.com through the end of January.

The chosen location will likely be announced at a fundraising banquet in March. Many potential sites have been mentioned so far, including the promenade along the Sacramento River near downtown, 16th Street in midtown, a section of Broadway near the Tower Theatre and Del Paso Boulevard in North Sacramento. Organizers stressed that no public money would be used for the park.

Promoters are seeking to build the Sakuramento festival as a spring event on the region’s growing farm to fork calendar.

“It’s going to be about making that connection in a really contemporary way and focusing on food,” Rodota said. “Sakuramento, we hope, will grow into a brand that’s built around contemporary and fun events, Japanese food and Japanese cooking.”

The Sacramento Tree Foundation has found a nursery in Oregon to grow a species of cherry trees that can thrive in Sacramento’s dry and warm climate. The trees – called Pink Flair – can grow up to 25 feet tall, said Ray Tretheway, the director of the tree foundation.

Tree plantings by volunteers are expected to begin next fall, Tretheway said. Special art installations and benches also could be included in the tree line.

“We’ve been challenging ourselves to come up with a place where we could plant enough cherry trees to really make an impact,” said Colleen Cadwallader, the tree foundation’s shade director. “We envision it in an urban area like midtown or downtown, but it could be anywhere.”

Mayor Kevin Johnson, whose office has promoted and helped build the farm to fork movement in Sacramento, said “this project makes perfect sense.”

“The Sakuramento festival will highlight the Sacramento region’s historical, cultural and economic ties to the people and nation of Japan,” the mayor said in a statement. “And the annual food festival will continue the momentum of our growing Farm-to-Fork movement as we will be working with local Japanese farmers as well as farmers who export to Japan. The inaugural Sakuramento Festival should be a highlight of 2015.”

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