Staying Green


Photo from


Originally posted in the Ceres Courier

The Ceres Garden Club celebrated an overwhelming turnout of volunteers on Saturday to plant Red Maple trees in parks and neighborhoods. The planting of the free trees was made possible by a grant administered by CalFire through the California Initiative to Reduce Carbon and Limit Emissions (CIRCLE).

“Never has a project touched so many within the community in such positive way,” commented Garden Club president Berni Hendrix. “Homeowners were touched with volunteers coming onto their property to help them plant the trees. Neighbors were touched by neighbors working together to make their neighborhood healthier with added landscape beautification.”

Volunteers included students of all ages, Boy Scouts, parents, grandparents, and volunteers from neighborhoods receiving trees and many from neighborhoods who did not receive trees.

The effort started last summer when members of the Ceres Garden Club walked door-to-door to offer trees to residents in neighborhoods selected by the Ceres Public Works Department. Residents not only had to grant permission for the planting but signed a statement saying they would accept responsibility to water the young tree with a minimum of 10 gallons per week for the first three years.

The objective of the CalFire Grant is to plant more trees to filter the air rendering it cleaner and healthier to breath. As a bonus is the increased property value for the homeowner, greater curb appeal in beautifying the community, and energy reduction for home heating and cooling costs from shade. The non-profit club received a donation from the grant for doing the legwork for securing the signed watering agreements, said Hendrix.

The trees became the property of the city, and are planted within the public utility easement that stretches 10 feet from the sidewalk.The city maintains the city trees located in neighborhoods and parks through a contract with professional arborists. Under contract with the city, West Coast Arborists employees were on hand Saturday to instruct volunteers on the proper method to plant the young trees.

Local professional certified arborist Daniel Bote of Ceres volunteered over 50 hours with the club to walk door-to-door getting agreements signed. Bote also paid his staff from Central Valley Trees and Landscape Services to participate in the project. Additionally, Bote headed up a team of volunteers to plant trees on Saturday.

Ryan Thornberry, owner of California Landscape & Supply Nursery, also volunteered and planted trees.

Hendrix said her club “honors the community support and dedication” rendered by both California Landscape & Supply Nursery and Bote’s Central Valley Trees and Landscape Services as a preferred local business.

The efforts of Helen Condit, chairperson of the free tree project, are credited for the strong turnout for the tree planting. Her son, Channce Condit, served as co-chairman and organized teams to canvas the targeted neighborhoods.

Ted Hawkins, vice president of the Ceres Garden Club was the spokesperson at the Celebration ceremony.

The planting event on Saturday included dedication of one tree planted in Smyrna Park to the late youth baseball coach Luis Malagana who was fatally shot earlier this year.

La Cañada welcomes new resident to ‘Tree City USA’

The city of La Cañada Flintridge celebrated Arbor Day by panting trees in front of the city's skate park on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. City officials including mayor David A. Spence, right, helped plant the Carrotwood tree. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / May 5, 2015)

The city of La Cañada Flintridge celebrated Arbor Day by panting trees in front of the city’s skate park on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. City officials including mayor David A. Spence, right, helped plant the Carrotwood tree.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / May 5, 2015)

In keeping with a tradition befitting an official “Tree City USA,” Mayor Dave Spence and other officials planted a tree Tuesday in a ceremony recognizing May 5 as Arbor Day in the city of La Cañada Flintridge.

The young carrotwood tree was one of three being planted that day near the city’s skate park on Cornishon Avenue as a symbol of a larger effort to encourage the planting and care of trees. A sturdy Australian native species, Cupaniopsis anacardioides was selected because the city’s map indicates Cornishon is where carrotwoods belong, said Gonzalo Venegas, the city’s facilities and maintenance superintendent.

As proof, Venegas pointed out the surrounding carrotwoods lining both sides of the street. About 10 years old now, they were also planted for the celebration, he said. Arbor Day was celebrated nationally on April 24.

For every tree planted in the annual gesture, the city plants hundreds more as part of the Arbor Day Foundation’s “Tree City USA” program, of which La Cañada has been a part for 27 years. In that time, a total of 21,500 trees have been planted locally, according to Evan Conklin, deputy forester for the Los Angeles County Forestry Division, who attended the event.

After reading a resolution recognizing the occasion, Spence joined City Manager Mark Alexander, Public Works Director Edward Hitti and other city staff in the ceremonial planting of the tree.

“It’s always a pleasure to plan and dedicate a tree in the benefit of the city and celebrating Arbor Day,” Spence remarked. “I urge all citizens to plan trees to gladden the hearts and preserve the well-being of present and future generations.”

City of Menlo Park – Chainsaw Carving Complete

City of Menlo Park

Chainsaw Carving Completed in Fremont Park

Original article by Clay Curtin – posted here – 

JOhn Mahoney Carving

Last month the Italian stone pine in Fremont Park was removed because it posed an imminent hazard due to root failure and a severe lean that gave the tree much of its unique character. Recently, the stump and two large pieces of the tree were repurposed by chainsaw artist, John Mahoney and the City’s tree crew leader, Juan Perez. Check out the time-lapse video below!

Over the next two weeks, the wood will be treated and sealed to reduce cracking as the wood dries out. Three new deodar cedar trees will be planted along the fence, to the east of the artwork. City staff is also working with the Menlo Park Historical Association to mark the rings on a cross section of the trunk to signify interesting dates in the City’s past.

Bear sculpture taking shape at O’side park

By Edward Sifuentes –  Originally posted here. on APRIL 9, 2014

Union Tribune


John Bear Mahoney

Edward Sifuentes

A dying tree is roaring back to life as a bear sculpture at Buddy Todd Park in Oceanside this week.

The 50-foot pine tree was infested with bark beetle and was in an awkward spot. It required frequent pruning so its branches didn’t interfere with San Diego Gas & Electric power lines near the park’s entrance on Mesa Drive.

Joel Menard, the city’s parks supervisor, said he approached John Mahoney — a chainsaw artist whose family owns West Coast Arborists — about doing something with the tree.

“I thought it’s a good, fat tree, might as well make into a bear,” Menard said Wednesday morning.

Mahoney began working on the sculpture last week, removing branches and trimming away growth to leave a towering stump.

On Wednesday morning, he filled about four different chainsaws with gas before climbing on a cherry picker to continue shaping the bear.

Mahoney — a 6-foot, 4-inch, 300-pound man with a long beard — jokingly called the half-finished sculpture a “self portrait” and said he was happy that he was asked to do it.

“It’s awesome, I’m stoked and honored,” Mahoney said. “It’s the biggest one yet for me.”

The sculpture stands about 15 feet tall and depicts a bear standing on his hind legs looking up at the sky.

West Coast Arborists contracts with the city for tree maintenance and its workers were trimming palm trees at the park this week.

Menard said the company is environmentally conscious and tries to reuse wood and trees that are cut down. The sculpture was part of its service and won’t cost the city any extra money.

He said the inspiration for the bear came from a previous sculpture that was at the park. A city employee carved that bear out of a dead tree years ago.

The bear was popular with the public, especially children, Menard said. But it had to be removed about five years ago to make way for a parking lot.

Highway 150/Saticoy Street median is well done by beautification effort


By Peggy Kelly

Originally posted in the Santa Paula Times

Feb 26th, 2014

Santa Paula chapter of America in Bloom planted the strawberry tree, a specimen in the family Ericaceae native to the Mediterranean region and western Europe north to western France and Ireland.West Coast Arborists donated the planted the tree, and can grow as high as 30-feet. Employees of West Coast Arborists plant the tree.

Santa Paula chapter of America in Bloom planted the strawberry tree, a specimen in the family Ericaceae native to the Mediterranean region and western Europe north to western France and Ireland.West Coast Arborists donated the planted the tree, and can grow as high as 30-feet. Employees of West Coast Arborists plant the tree.

It’s real name might be arbutus unedo, more commonly known as a strawberry tree but whatever the moniker it sure is going to brighten up the small median at Highway 150/Santa Paula-Ojai Road and Saticoy Street.

Interim Public Works Director Brian Yanez said the Santa Paula chapter of America in Bloom planted the strawberry tree, a specimen in the family Ericaceae native to the Mediterranean region and western Europe north to western France and Ireland.

Whatever it is,Yanez said,“It’s planted right there at Barbara We b s t e r S c h o o l ,” d r e s s i n g u p w h a t for years had been a messy small area mostly bushes that at times looked like weeds.

The tree is only the first step: “America in Bloom is planning to put in some drought tolerant plans and a creek bed,” in the median highly visible by passing motorists.

Yanez noted the project is a joint effort:“Our part was to clear it,” by ripping out all that grew in the median and getting the earth ready for the landscaping to come.

West Coast Arborists donated the planted the tree, which Yanez said can grow as high as 30-feet but not be overwhelming.

“It’s kind of like a lollypop tree ,” used extensively by Caltrans for highway beautification

“Some strawberry trees are planted when you get off at Victoria Avenue inVentura,” said Yanez.

“This is what America in Bloom wanted so I just go with the flow,” and more readily when it’s low-flow as in saving water.

Such thinking will also be applied when the city embarks on the 10th Street Beautification Project, which is facing a June design deadline.

The city received a $600,000-plus Caltrans grant for the project that will range from under the Highway 126 underpass -where a mural is planned to welcome commuters-and continue north to Santa Paula Street.

Project enhancements include a mural for the Highway 126 underpass for a defined entryway to the city, street lighting, landscaping improvements for 10th Street facing areas of the Santa Paula Police station, City Hall, and Veterans Park, the latter which will include a bike rack and seating for cyclists. Sidewalk repair, trees, landscaping of museums and other improvements will transform the corridor into a work of art for residents and visitors alike.

Administered by the VenturaCountyTransportation Commission the project will also include crossing safety improvements, encourage safe pedestrian mobility and layout a bicycle path that will connect with the city’s famed recreational trail and further up through one of the city’s most historic residential areas.

“Our goal is to connect it to our Class One bike trail at Railroad Plaza and the Santa Paula bike lane,” said Yanez.

The city continues to work in partnership with America In Bloom on the proposed project.

Yanez said he is pleased that about five companies are bidding on the landscape design project.

Arbor Day Celebration in Oceanside, CA

Union Tribune


Originally posted here in U-T San Diego 01:18p.m. Sep 20, 2013
Oceanside — The A’s had it in Oceanside last week.First there was Arbor Day, where students from a local high school and college planted trees in Buddy Todd Park, and then there was the Airport, where 150-some land vehicles shared the tarmac with planes of all kinds at the annual Summer Fly-In/Car show.The city sponsored the Arbor Day ceremony and environmental resource fair Thursday at the 19-acre park, Oceanside’s oldest.For the resource-fair part of the activities, those setting up information booths included the MiraCosta College Horticulture Department, West Coast Arborists, Davey Resource Group, Western Environmental Consultants (working for San Diego Gas & Electric), Cal Fire, San Diego Regional Urban Forests Council and Agri Services.Many of them had free stuff to give away — such as toothpick holders, magnets, mulch or little containers of plastic bags to pick up dog doo.“Whoever knew there could be so many kinds of mulch?” commented one visitor as he surveyed a display by Agri Service, which runs an operation on city El Corazon land turning green waste into compost.

A poster proclaimed “San Diego County has 6,687 farms — more than any other county in the United States.”

Eileen Turk, parks and recreation division manager for the city, noted that the public voted to name two trees — the coastal oak and the golden medallion — official trees of the city.

Lynette Short from Cal Fire presented Oceanside with a Tree City USA award for the sixth consecutive year and told how Julius Sterling Morton started Arbor Day in the Nebraska Territory in 1872. Officially, the date falls in April, but it can be celebrated any time there are trees for planting.

Mayor Jim Wood told the students that later on, when they lie under a tree at the park, they can remember that they planted it.

Also at the event, John Mahoney demonstrated chain-saw wood carving with an array of sculptures ranging from fishes and owls to totems. He noted they were being saved from the landfill.

After instructions from city parks workers, students from Ocean Shores High School and MiraCosta College planted 11 trees — crepe myrtle and redbud.

The fly-in, car show at the airport replaced an annual barbecue that didn’t bring out a lot of people, according to Gordon Nesbitt, president of the sponsoring Oceanside Airport Association, a booster group.

Saturday, it was a different story.

“Actually we had 147 registered show cars (and perhaps a dozen that slipped in without registering/paying),” Nesbitt said. “We estimated attendance at around 1,400 visitors.

“All proceeds are going toward the Jack Cassan Memorial Flight Scholarship for local high school students,” Nesbitt said.

Every type of vehicle was displayed.

Hot rods and vintage cars vied for attention with flatbed trucks and fancy Ferraris. One license plate declared a 1932 Ford roadster “Fun 4 Pop.”

Some had rumble seats, and many sported neon colors such as “furious fuchsia.”

A Ford De Tomaso Pantera displayed a sign declaring it had “the body of a sexy Italian exotic with the heart of an American muscle car.”

One car towed a teardrop camping trailer, a vintage vehicle in itself.

REACH, the new medical helicopter service contracting with the city, was on display, and all the while, a calliope aboard an old carpenter’s tow truck played, Tsunami Skydivers demonstrated their skills, biplanes and sleek one-seaters took off from the runway, and radio-controlled jets zoomed overhead.

“It’s one of the nicer shows because of the aerial (component),” said Julie Walker as her husband, Jeff, watched the model planes, and she stayed with their 1968 Plymouth GTX classic muscle car on display.

The air show — and the prizes — set this event apart, Walker said, noting that plaques for winning vehicles in various categories carried aeronautical names such as “Most likely to plow an airfield” and had the likes of spark plugs or airplane instruments attached.

Lola Sherman is a freelance writer. Contact her at lola@

Transforming Trees to Treasures in Laguna Niguel




Mark Ranauro planted five sequoia tree saplings in his narrow Laguna Niguel backyard in 1987. It was the year he moved into the house and the same year his son Kyle was born.
Decades later, they’ve grown from just above eye level to more than 50 feet tall, massive shade-providers that loom over his two-story suburban home just off Niguel Road. Ranauro’s backyard feels more Pacific Northwest than Orange County. One sequoia tops out at 65 feet, he said.

“They are like our kids,” Ranauro said of the trees. “It really hurt when we had to cut the first one down.”
When he called an arborist to have a second tree removed earlier this summer – a few dead branches threatened his neighbor’s property – he had a decision to make: He could have the arborist haul it away, or he could keep it. Build something with it.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is an amazing tree,’” Ranauro said. “Wouldn’t it be cool to make it into a piece of furniture?”’
He held onto the most valuable part – a 10-foot, 1,500-pound trunk section now cut up into a stack of 45 boards drying in his garage. He has plans to build a dining room table.
With his project, Ranauro joined a growing push to recycle downed urban trees in Orange County – diverting wood waste from the mulcher or landfill.
Several businesses and organizations including Anaheim-based West Coast Arborists, Woodhill Firewood in Irvine and the Orange County Woodworkers Association have latched onto the trend.
“I’d like to promote it,” Ranauro said. “There’s not as many as up in NorCal, but you’ve still got a lot of great trees down here.”


Some of the prettiest wood found in Orange County comes from trees like American elm, magnolia, red gum eucalyptus and black walnut, said John Dominguez, who heads up a year-old partnership between Woodhill Firewood and West Coast Arborists.
Dominguez is happy to do smaller jobs, like cutting Ranauro’s sequoia trunk into boards, but the focus of his Irvine operation is decidedly large scale.
West Coast Arborists contracts with 250 cities, including several Orange County municipalities. Some 600 tons of wood waste is processed daily at Woodhill Firewood off Bake Parkway.
Some branches are mulched; some turned into firewood. There’s even a resident chainsaw artist, John Mahoney, who operates on one corner of the Woodhill lot.
But often the more desirable pieces – the thick tree trunks like Ranauro’s – are placed in a wood kiln for drying, and later built into items like picnic benches, Dominguez said. Sometimes they’re even sold back to cities where the trees originally came from.


The idea to turn downed urban trees into lumber or artwork isn’t new.
“Woodworkers have always used scrap. They’ve always used what they can for free,” said James Santhon, president of the 230-member Orange County Woodworkers Association.
Dominguez said for a time the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection even had a program where it lent sawmills and wood kilns to anyone who wanted to try milling.
“They wanted municipalities and companies to draw up proposals to divert wood waste from landfills,” he said.
Only more recently, however, has the urban wood recycling program taken off. Woodhill Firewood’s kiln and woodshop are humming – Dominguez recently sold eight picnic tables to the city of Santa Monica, and several outdoor benches made of recycled wood are soon headed to Petaluma, in Northern California.


Plenty of furniture makers and hobbyists call up Dominguez to have a log cut or buy wood for a project, and he hopes to make connections with more. But he warns the tree-to-table type projects aren’t for everyone.
“It’s not just cut down a tree, cut it up and make something,” he said.
Ranauro realized the challenges immediately: It cost $2,000 to have the sequoia carefully cut down, piece by piece, and another $150 for Dominguez to mill it.
Moving the trunk out of his backyard took an afternoon and a small army. They had to roll, pry and jack it up and around his deck, then his gate, and into the front where it could be loaded into a truck and shipped off to the sawmill.
Now, he’ll have to wait more than a year to start construction on the table while the boards dry out in his garage. The moisture content of a fresh log can be as much as 85 percent, Dominguez said, but for woodworking, it needs to be less than 10 percent.
Ranauro has little woodworking experience, outside of a high school woodshop class. But growing up in Lewiston, Maine, a paper mill town, he remembers watching his grandfather collect log remnants from the mill in his truck, and bring them home to his downstairs workshop.
“Everything in the house he made,” Ranauro said. “So I had a fascination with it, even though I never learned how to do it.”


The lengthy process doesn’t scare off some of the avid craftsmen of the Orange County Woodworkers Association, said Larry Marley, the club’s public affairs director. The roar of a chainsaw is enough to get them excited. It’s a sound that club members have dubbed the “call of the wild.”
“They jump in their truck, and go see if they’re cutting down something good,” Marley said.
Other times, residents reach out to the club, Marley said, to see if members want the wood from a tree they’re taking down.
Club members sometimes haul it away for free, before making bowls, toys or furniture with it. Last week, Marley sent out an email informing members of some choice-looking logs sitting in front of a San Clemente house.
Orange County’s “huge variety of trees,” many of them imported from all over the country, make it a special place for woodworkers who are passionate about recycling urban wood, Marley said.
For Ranauro, there is plenty of time to research construction techniques and think about what to do with the numerous sequoia slabs piled in his garage. He left the bark on some edges, for the rustic-looking dining room table he plans to build. His son says he will weld together some metal legs for it.
His friends, co-workers and neighbors have offered ideas for other projects. Apparently there’s something romantic about the closed-loop recycling of a sequoia tree.
“The gal across the street says, ‘Hey, I’d love a cutting board,’” Ranauro said. “Everybody wants a piece of it.”
Contact the writer: 949-492-0401 or


1. Select and cut

Utilizing recycled wood is increasingly popular, and craftsmen and hobbyists in the Orange County Woodworkers Association are always on the hunt for unique tree species.

2. Transport

Moving massive branches and logs to the sawmill is an arduous process. Renauro’s 10-foot 1,500 pound sequoia log required car jacks and lots of manpower to move.

3. Milling

Woodworkers can have their more pristine tree trunks and wood cut into planks at Woodhill Firewood in Irvine. The operation has a saw and wood kiln — even its own resident chainsaw artist, John Mahoney.

4. Drying

Unless you have a kiln to speed the process, drying out “green” wood can take anywhere from one to three years, depending on moisture content. If utilized too soon, the wood can warp and crack as it continues to dry.

5. Build it

Ranauro plans to build a dining room table, while some OCWA craftsmen often create smaller items like bowls and toys from recycled wood.

The Art of “Tree-Fiti”

By ANNA ILIFF / Originally posted in the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

At the intersection of power tools and passion, an Orange County man found his calling in the hum of a chainsaw.

Meet John Mahoney, who has worked a slew of odd jobs, from women’s shoe salesman to camp counselor before settling into the title of resident chainsaw artist at Woodhill Firewood in Irvine.

John Mahoney of Laguna Beach works on a sequoia tree statue made from Redwood logs he gets from Woodhill Firewood recycling center in Irvine. The wood is recycled logs collected by West Coast Arborists, who clear and trim city trees from three states. “It’s a Carisma Tree until December,” says the 25-year old chainsaw artist. “In December they become Christmas trees'” he adds. Photo – Ken Steinhardt.

Behind the 20-ft tall piles of wood stacked methodically throughout the 15-acre lumber yard located on Bake Parkway, Mahoney creates elaborate sculptures out of recycled wood wielding just a chainsaw, a blow torch and a couple of small power tools.

“I’m just a tree honky bucking trees in the urban forest and creating some tree-fiti,” said Mahoney, a 25-year-old Laguna Beach resident who goes by “Big John” or “Bunyan.” At 6-feet, 4-inches tall and 300 pounds, Mahoney may not be as large as legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan, but what he lacks in stature he makes up in charisma.

Mahoney is the youngest child of Patrick Mahoney, owner of West Coast Arborists, which trims and clears trees for cities in California, Arizona and Nevada. Woodhill is a unit of West Coast.

Although Mahoney says he grew up with an appreciation for trees and the outdoors, his stint as a wood carver didn’t begin until a customer stole a truck-full of lumber from Woodhill and offered his expertise as plea for forgiveness. The thief was a Tiki carver.

Three years later, Mahoney can be found transforming logs into larger-than-life sculptures and beautiful furniture.

“I’m not an insane artist,” said Mahoney. “It was all kind of random. I’ve always thought it was cool, but I had never seen a live chainsaw carver before I did it myself. I’m just a goofball with a chainsaw dancing away.”

[leadplayer_vid id=”5220FC5D60839″]

Before each carving, Mahoney draws a pattern with chalk directly onto the log which he edits and adjusts as he goes along. He then uses a chainsaw to create a rough shape of his project before switching to a small carving saw for precision and added detail. For finishing touches, he uses a right-angle grinder and stains each piece to perfection.

Each sculpture varies in the amount of time required to complete. Mahoney said it takes about 30 minutes to carve a small bear and about two days to make a 7-ft tall Tiki. His pieces range in price to $700.

Earlier this year, Mahoney was commissioned by Temple City to carve the city’s seal into a historic tree stump at Temple City Park.

“It’s beautiful,” said Cathy Burroughs, director of Parks and Recreation for Temple City. “We’ve had so many compliments on it. Just about every day you’ll see people standing in front of it taking pictures. It’s wonderful.”

His latest project includes creating wooden eight-panel hats using trompe l’oeil, an art technique that attempts to create an optical illusion to fool the viewer into believing it is the object itself.

“I like to make whimsical stuff,” said Mahoney. “I’m trying not to be a standard chainsaw carver. I want to do funky, freaky Tikis and big furniture pieces. I’m trying to hone my craft so I can be a great tree-fiti artist.”

Mahoney will hold his first art show in conjunction with Raw Artists at the Shark Club in Costa Mesa on August 18.

Contact the writer:


If you go

When:6-10 p.m. August 18

Where:Shark Club, 841 Baker Street, Costa Mesa

Age restriction:21 and up

Cost:$15 pre-sale, $20 at the door


Long Beach hopes mulch wall will make Hudson Park a healthier place


Today, trees removed by WCA, Inc. are being converted and recycled  into Topsoil, Mulch, Planter Mix and a new sound wall in the City of Long Beach along the 710 freeway. If you are interested in using our topsoil, mulch or planter mix at your home or business, we have a great selection available for pick up or delivery.  You can find our lab results by clicking here .

Read more in the article originally printed here in the LA Times –

By Tony Barboza

August 6, 2013, 6:41 p.m.

Long Beach has erected a new fortification in the battle against freeway noise and air pollution, and it’s decidedly low-tech.

It’s called “The Great Wall of Mulch.”

City officials gathered Tuesday to top off a 12-foot-high barrier of shredded tree clippings held together by two chain-link fences — a low-cost structure designed to dampen the sound and block the sight of diesel trucks from the heavily traveled Terminal Island Freeway.

“This is not just going to be good for sound pollution, it’s not just good for visual blight, but it’s the first sound wall that I know of that’s also going to improve air quality,” said City Councilman James Johnson as he hopped aboard a cherry picker with Mayor Bob Foster to dump a final, golden bucketful of mulch atop the 3-foot-thick wall.

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster pours mulch on top of a 12-foot-high barrier held together by chain-link fences, which will serve as a buffer to block noise and pollution from trucks on the Terminal Island Freeway. (Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times / August 6, 2013)

While more traditional concrete sound walls shield many homes from the freeway, there was nothing but a chain-link fence between the complex of sports fields at west Long Beach’s Hudson Park and the trucks that serve the nation’s largest port complex.

Johnson said the city came up with the idea of using mulch from its tree-trimming operations because it’s more visually pleasing, graffiti-proof and practically free.

The city plans to plant trees and shrubs along the wall to absorb some air pollutants, such as the fine particulates in diesel exhaust. Dirty air is a long-running health concern in the neighborhood west of the 710 Freeway, which suffers from some of the worst air quality in the nation because of its proximity to port operations and has higher rates of asthma and respiratory illness.

For now, city officials are testing the wall on a 600-foot stretch of the Terminal Island Freeway that fronts the popular park. The wall could be extended by thousands of feet to protect nearby schools and ball fields if it proves effective at blocking the sound, sight and pollution from thousands of diesel trucks that rumble by each day.

That would be welcome news to Rob Aho, a physical education teacher at Elizabeth Hudson K-8 School who takes his classes to exercise and play soccer at Hudson Park, just south of the school.

“You get the rubber smell if they slam on the brakes too much, you get the exhaust smell and you get the noise, which is insane,” he said. “My concern, of course, is the safety of my kids.”

The Port of Long Beach is funding the $150,000 demonstration project, mostly to pay for the green-colored chain-link fencing that holds in the mulch like a giant cage. The port also will conduct testing to gauge how well the wall blocks sound and how well the mulch holds up after it starts to settle and decompose.

The wall of mulch sits across the freeway from a 153-acre site slated for the construction of the Southern California International Gateway — a $500-million rail yard approved by the Los Angeles City Council in May. Long Beach city officials, environmentalists and community groups fiercely oppose the project on the grounds that it will send polluted air into low-income neighborhoods, schools and parks.


Annual Santree Fest celebrates trees and community in Santee


Written by Stephen Prendergrast Originally posted here  in the Examiner.

Photo credit: SPrendergast


For the eleventh straight year Santee celebrated its status as a Tree City USA, a designation the city is rightly proud of, and for the eighth year the Santree Fest brought together members of the community to celebrate. Over the years Santree Fest and the earlier Santee Arbor Day Celebration have provided the opportunity for residents to plant hundreds of trees around the city. This year the festival took place at Town Center Community Park East as part of a much larger day of community celebration. Also taking place in the area were the YMCA Healthy Kids Day, the Santee Firefighters April Pools Day and National Dance Day.


“Santree Fest is the City of Santee’s annual celebration of Arbor Day, which we do in association with our National Arbor Day Tree City USA status,” explained Santee Recreation Services Manager Sue Richardson. “Part of the requirements to be a Tree City USA is to hold an Arbor Day celebration. What started about eight years ago as a tree planting along Magnolia with community groups has grown into a larger, almost all-day festival celebrating Earth Day and Arbor Day together.”

View slideshow: Annual Santree Fest celebrates trees and community in Santee

Santee celebrated the annual Santree Fest in recognition of the city’s eleventh year being named a Tree City USA
Photo credit: SPrendergast

This year’s Santree Fest featured continuous entertainment, including Box Canyon Band with toe-tapping bluegrass music. Dancers from the Santee Recreation Program, Expressions Dance and Movement Center, Jean’s Dance Studio and Charlene’s Dance performed in celebration of National Dance Week. A children’s area included inflatables, a Frisbee golf course and other activities. In addition, vendors provided a wide array of foods, goods and services.

With a focus on the environment, the day included the planting of approximately 38 trees along with shrubs and other landscaping around Town Center Community Park East. The San Diego River Park Foundation led a cleanup walk along the nearby San Diego River as part of the I Love a Clean San Diego Creek to Bay Project, collecting trash from the east edge of the park all the way to Cuyamaca Street.

“This is the largest event we have had so far,” said Richardson. “Originally we went from site to site around the city finding locations such as parks and school that needed trees, so we have done them at Mast Park and Cajon Park School. We did one at Rio Seco School on the west side of the Town Center Park and last year we worked on the north side of the park from Cuyamaca along Riverwalk Drive. We are still growing Town Center Community Park, even though the construction was done two years ago. There are still areas that need shade, and as we’ve used the park we wanted to add more shade.”

One of the highlights was the planting of a special tree honoring the fallen members of one of the city’s adopted Marine units, the 2nd Battalion 1st Marines from Camp Pendleton. Santee has also adopted Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 462 from Miramar MCAS. The tree is located near the beginning of the recently completed Marine Memorial Trail that circles the park. Mayor Randy Voepel and representatives from both units were on hand for the dedication.

Photo credit: SPrendergast


“It has been absolutely fantastic,” said recently crowned Miss Santee 2013 Emily Zobel. “We were so honored to meet some of the military who came out to help plant some of our trees. We were told that one tree represents 29 fallen military, so it’s fantastic that we can have that in our city.”

Asked what she enjoyed most about the day, Miss Santee Teen 2013 Melissa Lawrence said, “I like how all the families come together and are friendly with one another. I like all the kiosks and stand they have – it gives you a feel for what is here in Santee.”


One of the more creative and interesting displays at Santree Fest was a collection of woodcarvings done by “Big John” Mahoney of West Coast Arborists. Mahoney is not your average woodcarver – instead of traditional tools he employs a gas-powered chain saw for his artwork. When not carving some of the large sections of trees that come in from the company’s work, Mahoney runs the firewood and furniture divisions at the company’s recycling center.

“A few years ago we caught a guy stealing firewood who was a tiki carver,” Big John explained when asked how he began his artistic career. “We called him out on it and he didn’t admit to it, but a week later he came in and said he couldn’t sleep at night and asked what he could to do make it right. I said, ‘Trade me a chain saw carving lesson and we’ll call it good.’ That was two and a half years ago and I’ve been doing it and having fun ever since.”

For Santree Fest Mahoney carved a tree with “Santree” at the base, but he has also created traditional tiki heads, fish and eagles. His current eagle, the third he has carved, is an amazing work that stands a good five feet tall from wingtip to wingtip.

As part of the entertainment, Expressions Dance and Movement Center, a local dance studio, partnered with the City of Santee and Santree Fest to help celebrate National Dance Week, which runs from April 26 through May 4. In honor of National Dance Day the studio participated in a nationwide dance flash mob performance, joined by local school children who had learned the dance during special assemblies. At the end of the performance the dancers “danced their shoes off” to support the non-profit Project Warm Feet.

The day also gave the City of Santee the opportunity to do a soft kick-off for the new Invest From the Ground Up program, which will be rolled out this next week at the Santee Lakes Green Day at the Lakes celebration on May 4. The new program will encourage Santee residents to plant trees in their easements to provide additional shade throughout the community.

Photo credit: SPrendergast

“We want to promote the value and awareness of trees in the community and to help promote Arbor Day,” Richardson said. “We put up tags that calculate the value of trees to the community. So tree awareness and Earth Day awareness are our main goals for the festival, but part of the Community Services Department’s mission is to bring people together in the community and this is one of our best events.”

With events such as Santree Fest, the annual Santee Celebrates the Fourth and the Summer Concert Series, bringing the community together is something the department does very well.

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