Urban Releaf Gets to the Roots


Residents and business owners on San Leandro Boulevard and Fruitvale Avenue woke up to find nearly 60 trees being planted up and down their streets by urban forest organization Urban Releaf.

The event was part of the California Urban Forests Council’s “Invest from the Ground Up” statewide initiative to plant over 1,200 trees at 19 locations across California.

Over 100 volunteers from several organizations including the Unity Council, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, and the California Urban Forests Council participated, learning proper planting standards and tree care from certified arborists.

The arborists that volunteered to teach also received Continued education units from the Western International Society of Arborist. Refreshments and food were also provided.

Armed with shovels, gloves, and bamboo stakes, the volunteers spent the morning digging out dirt, pruning broken branches and laying down mulch. There were also stumps that had to be removed and young trees replanted that rely on easier access to water to establish deep root systems.

“Many factors are taken into account when we’re planting, such as overhead wiring and having the necessary amount of concrete space to plant small, medium, and large trees around the city,” said Kevin Jefferson, Director of Research at Urban Releaf. “We added 10 new tree owners to our list because they saw the work we were doing and now want trees in front of their homes and businesses.”

A variety of tree species including the crepe myrtle, flowering plum, pyrus kawakami, and Chinese pistache were planted between Fruitvale Avenue and 40th Street.

“Urban Releaf has been serving the community for more than fifteen years, and we are pleased to be a part of this effort to plant so many trees throughout California in just a single day,” said Kemba Shakur, Director and founder of Urban Releaf Director of Research.

Urban Releaf is responsible for planting and caring for about 16,000 trees in low-income East Bay communities. When the City of Oakland was selected last December to join the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Network to increase social and economic equality, a partnership was formed with Urban Releaf to help implement a climate action plan.

The plan involves evaluating impacts of climate change on utility and food costs, especially for low-income residents.

“Planting this many trees in a single day is a significant undertaking, and one which the community will benefit from for years to come – both in terms of environmental impacts, and making the Fruitvale District more aesthetically-pleasing to look at and live in,” said Shakur.

The next tree planting is scheduled for March 1st on Holly Street & 87th Street in East Oakland.


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