By Gabriela Estrada
“Planting trees can be very rewarding,” Dr. Muick told her class. She was a professor at Solano Community College, whose class I was giving a presentation to. I had never thought about the planting of trees as anything other than practical. Her words however, invited me to reflect on exactly what part of working on the Urban Forest project I found rewarding.
After deep reflection, I concluded that the rewarding part about this project so far has been the chance to strategically support community members who are seeking opportunities to take action and activate their power as community members. For there is true strength in diverse community members collectively working on a project that will create a positive change in the world.
With this reward in mind, I entered on a three-month journey of event planning, of reaching out to different organizations and individuals in Fairfield who might be interested in joining the Sustainable Solano to plant an Urban Forest.
On the day of the event, I was delighted when about 60 volunteers from all age groups showed up; ready to plant trees and reap their own rewards. Armed with shovels, gardening gloves, water bottles and a go-getter attitude, they were ready to dig holes and serve at any capacity needed.
After making sure that everyone was signed-in and accounted for, we gathered to talk a little more about the importance of the project and to briefly discuss what the next three hours had in store for us. We then gathered in a circle, and while taking three deep breaths; we thanked the earth beneath our feet, the air around us and the people we were getting ready to share this tree planting journey with.
Afterwards, people self-assigned into two groups: one that will be moving mulch in order to prepare the soil and another team that was going to be digging the holes where the trees were going to be planted. Younger children, assisted by their parents, began to move mulch in wheel barrows. A few father and son duos soon became occupied digging holes, and removing trees from their storage containers (this task is harder than it sounds). Small groups of 20-something year olds laughed, as they met classmates for the first time in person while they struggled to dig into the hard ground.
As the event progressed, I then encouraged volunteers to think of names for the trees they were planting, and everyone jumped at the opportunity to do it. Tree names ranged from Groot, to Bert, to Crystal Diamond, to Snowflake. People were having fun, chuckling and discussing possible names as they struggle to dig deeper into the ground.
Our hard work paid off, and in a manner of two hours, eighteen trees had been planted in their new home. This, however, did not discourage many from persevering and continuing to move mulch and helped set-up the drip irrigation system for the trees until noon. As the event came to an end, volunteers then began to place shovels, garden rakes and wheel barrows next to the trailer they had gotten them out from.
They scuffed the mud collected underneath their shoes away on the pavement and asked when the next tree planting was going to happen.
The end of the event, marked a successful first installation of Fairfield’s Urban Forest, but the project is continuing through November 2019! As the project continues, I envision strategically attracting more people and organizations who are interested in working with Sustainable Solano to increase the green infrastructure in Solano County. I hope to increase the capacities of volunteers to go beyond planting trees on the ground (though this is one of the most important parts). Though I am still figuring out just how I will do this, I hope that as volunteers continue to work on this project, they will continue to harvest the power of their community and learn a couple new skills along the way. I am always excited to hear ideas and how people want to be involved!