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Tree Fresno reboots efforts to improve our quality of life


By Bill McEwen – The Fresno Bee

Originally published in the Fresno Bee onWednesday, Sep. 26, 2012


It’s not like Tree Fresno has been in witness protection. The nonprofit has lived up to its name by planting 39,000 trees over 27 years, including 4,100 on school campuses.

But the organization is beginning to rebrand itself, anyway, and preach to local leaders about how raising Fresno’s quality of life would invigorate an underperforming economy.

Their strategy — creating more trails and greenbelts while continuing to add to the urban forest — will be unveiled this afternoon with a reception and tour of Tree Fresno’s new office across from the Gibson Farm Market at Fresno State.

“We’re proud of our accomplishments,” says John Valentino, president of Tree Fresno’s board of directors. At the same time, he says Tree Fresno is frustrated about high crime, unemployment and dropout rates.

Says Tree Fresno board member Mark Keppler: “The status quo is unacceptable. If we improve our quality of life, we will see economic development.”

These aren’t radical ideas. They echo what economists cite when analyzing why some cities prosper and others stumble along or deteriorate.

“Trees, trails and greenbelts make our region investment-worthy,” says Lee Ayres, Tree Fresno’s chief executive officer.

To its credit, Tree Fresno is thinking big.

Its leaders want to vault Fresno from last in parks among the nation’s 40 largest cities to the top 10 over the next decade. They want to build partnerships with every high school in the region. They’re talking about developing a Valley Arboretum that would be a signature amenity for the region. And they’re planning to plant groves of trees honoring military veterans on the San Joaquin River and Fancher Creek parkways.

All of these efforts require money, as well as elbow grease from scores of volunteers.

Getting people out to plant trees has never been a problem for Tree Fresno. For example, 2,800 volunteers turned out for the Great Rail Tree Planting in 2000.

Money? Well, that’s always a problem — but the cupboard isn’t as bare as you might think. Before voters overwhelmingly passed Fresno County’s 20-year transportation sales tax extension in 2006, proponents touted that $53.3 million would go to trails in urban and rural locations.

The recession has knocked down that total. Tony Boren, executive director of the Fresno Council of Governments, says the half-cent tax is on track to generate about $42 million for trails — a total that would rise as the economy picks up.

But Fresno’s financial plunge and slow recovery have delivered a double whammy. Not only have local governments cut back on park and trail maintenance to balance budgets, the county and its cities lack money to service new trails that could be built today with Measure C funds.

In addition, the Measure C spending plan strictly regulates trail funds: “They must be spent on new trails,” Boren says. “Meanwhile, Fresno and Clovis are saying, ‘We can’t afford to maintain what we have now.’ ”

A solution: How about the people who lobbied for Measure C trails go to COG and ask for a tweak that would allow some funds to be used on trail maintenance? In return, the Fresno and Clovis city councils could agree to make new trails and greenbelts a higher priority when the economy picks up.

Our county is greener than it was in 1985 when Tree Fresno’s first volunteers raised $27,000 with a telethon and planted trees in downtown and the Tower District.

We need to get greener still. Think of it as a down payment on prosperity.


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Thea’s Tree

Thea’s Tree

An Illustrated Ode to Daydreaming, the Passage of Time, and the Gift of Human Imagination

by Maria Popova

“Go plant this seed… And give it water and love and conversation.”

For the tellers of ancient myths, trees project the secret life of the spiritual world; for the great explainers of science, they remind us that we come from the sun; throughout history, trees have lent their shape to symbolic diagrams visualizing human knowledge. Humanity has always had a special relationship with trees — they are, after all, the oldest living unitary things in the world. Therein lies a potent metaphor that makes trees an exceptional storytelling device for some of the most difficult concepts with which the human mind tussles — notions like time, permanence, and impermanence. That’s precisely what author and illustrator Judith Clay explores with great gentleness and playful whimsy in Thea’s Tree (public library) — a belated but befitting addition to the best children’s books of 2014 by Indian independent publisher Karadi Tales, who bring to life wonderful and unusual stories from cultures around the world.

This particular masterpiece tells the story of a little girl named Thea, who lives in a city full of “houses, houses, and more houses,” and longs for nothing more than a tree — that exotic comrade in play and daydreaming, known to Thea only by her parents’ tales of their own childhood adventures.

As she dreams of “trees to climb, trees to hide in, trees to sit under and dream,” something unusual happens one late October day — a solitary leaf comes “floating gently and quietly past Thea’s window.”

Clay’s uncommonly imaginative and tender illustrations bring to life that delicate dance between desire and despair familiar to all who have yearned for something intensely and have been suddenly exhilarated by the faintest possibility of attaining it.

So uncontainable is Thea’s exhilaration that she rushes out to her friends, playing on the concrete street, and excitedly urges them to help her find the source of that hope-giving leaf. But they are unmoved, because “perhaps they didn’t even know what a tree was.” Indeed, implicit to the story is a subtle lamentation of how the legacy of the twentieth century has robbed children of essential childhood experiences like that vitalizing connection to the natural world.

Lulled by the precious leaf’s rustle, Thea drifts smoothly into a dream. The leaf carries her, by way of a giant moon — that quintessential patron saint of the child’s innocence — to the beautiful tree from which it came.

Once again, Clay’s subtle lament of how humanity has exploited the natural world comes to light as the tree speaks to Thea:

The tree saw right into Thea’s heart and found her deepest desire.

“Why do you want a tree, my dear?” the tree asked gently. “Do you want to build a hut or a boat or a fire with it? Do you want to make it into newspapers and books?”

Thea shook her head. Shyly, she said, “I want a tree for climbing and playing and to sit and dream under.”

“Then go plant this seed,” said the wise, white tree, “And give it water and love and conversation.”

When Thea awakes, she finds herself outside her house, seed in hand. She plants it into “a small patch of ground” and goes on to water it and love it and talk to it every day, until a tiny plant sprouts from the soil.

As Thea grows, so does the tree, which becomes a loyal dream-mate not only to her, and to her children, and to her grandchildren — a tender reminder that however much we may resist nature by replacing it with our houses and streets and treeless cities, the cycles of life are impervious to our resistance and peace only comes when we finally surrender to them and relinquish our vain resistance.

Thea’s Tree is absolutely magical from cover to cover. Complement it with The Farmer and the Clown, another belated addition to last year’s loveliest children’s books, then revisit a very different but equally rewarding Indian treasure celebrating trees, the breathtaking The Night Life of Trees.

Illustrations courtesy of Karadi Tales / Judith Clay


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Tree Church

Brian Cox, a New Zealand native, spent years traveling the world and studying many different houses of worship. He’s also the owner of Tree locations, a company that moves and plants large trees. So when he returned home, he knew exactly what he wanted to do to build his own monument to spirituality.

In 2011, Brian began work on the Tree Church~ 4 years to complete.

Brian used steel frames to make the skeleton of this beautiful church.

He used a wide variety of trees and plants to create different textures and forms.

He was careful to make sure the canopy never got too dense, so that sunlight would always illuminate the church.

For the walls he used Copper Sheen trees, because the color of their bark is so similar to stone.

When it was finished, Brian decided that everyone should be able to enjoy the church, so he opened it up to the public.

Brian’s own nephew was recently married in the church.

The building requires a lot of upkeep – it takes over 8 hours of pruning and mowing to get it ready for visitors. But it’s worth it!

“Visitors have said that they find the Tree Church relaxing and that their worries disappear,” Brian says. “I find that sort of feedback immensely rewarding.”

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Earth Day – Dear Future Generations: Sorry

Earth Day – Dear Future Generations: Sorry

While issues like global warming and deforestation plague our world, a rapper has partnered with Stand for Trees, to remind us that not all hope is lost — we really can do something about it.

In a video entitled “Dear Future Generations, Sorry,” outspoken rapper Prince Ea uses some poignant words to give us a glimpse into what the world could look like one day, by addressing generations after our time.

Watch Prince Ea’s video below. To learn more about Stand For Trees, visit their website here.

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Fresno City Hall sees recharge basins are part of water solution

Fresno City Hall sees recharge basins are part of water solution

Water and the Valley |

“City Hall on Monday will host the first of four public meetings on Fresno’s water future. This one is at Hoover High School in northeast Fresno and will cover that free-market pillar, supply and demand.

The events continue every two weeks until early November, each with a different topic. The finale is at City Hall. The City Council at some point almost certainly will debate water-rate hikes.”

Click the link below for the full story!