Goodbye trees, hello solar canopies: Project will change look of college parking lots
BY BONHIA LEE
The installation could save about $18 million in energy costs districtwide over the next 20 years. But it also means death to a bunch of trees – at least 88 alone in the Fresno City College parking lots along McKinley Avenue.
Fresno City faculty member Jeannine Koshear isn’t happy about the trees being cut down, including one that she claims is a century old and used in class lessons. She’s also upset with the district for not getting more community input before voting to move ahead with the project.
“Here we are, in the Valley, with horrible air quality, and we’re going to cut down trees to install solar?” Koshear said.
“This would change the face of campus forever.”
THIS WOULD CHANGE THE FACE OF CAMPUS FOREVER.
Jeannine Koshear, Fresno City faculty member
Discussions about a districtwide solar project started last August. A presentation was made to the board of trustees in February and the board voted in March, in a close 4-3 decision, to move ahead with the installation. There were a lot of meetings leading up to the vote, and the district posted a formal 15-day notice before the March meeting, said Christine Miktarian, associate vice chancellor of business and operations.
The district entered a lease agreement with ForeFront, a solar company recommended by the School Project for Utility Rate Reduction, or SPURR program, a joint powers authority created in 1989 by California public school districts. SPURR helps streamline the solar competitive bidding process for public entities.
The plan is to install solar shade structures and some electric car-charging stations at Clovis Community College, the district’s Herndon Avenue campus in Clovis, Fresno City, Madera Community College Center and Reedley College.
Fresno City was the biggest challenge because it has a lot of trees, a shortage of land and a plan that outlines possible future development at the college, Miktarian said. The district did not want to take away any parking areas or build on land that could be slated for a new building, she said.
The solar structures would be built over the existing parking lots along McKinley Avenue. The lot closest to the railroad tracks was spared because it could be home to a new parking structure in the future.
“We’re not putting (solar) on the buildings,” Miktarian said. “That would be an added structural issue for the buildings themselves.”
88Trees to be removed at Fresno City College
The trees in the parking lots are in the way so they have to go, the district said. None of the college’s “heritage” trees – the old, mature trees that are part of a campus tree walk program – will be removed, Miktarian said.
Once construction is finished by the end of the year, the district plans to plant 100 large native shade trees on the Fresno City campus and another 300 between the Madera and Reedley college sites, Miktarian said. The district is working with Tree Fresno on applying for a grant.
Construction is scheduled to begin in late summer and will run into the start of the new school year.
Koshear, who said she supports solar and other efforts to reduce energy costs, is still not convinced solar panels on the parking lots is the way to go.
“It seems to me like there’s a model that is much more … collaborative and doesn’t involve the destruction of trees.”
APRIL 28, 2017 4:45 PM
The giving tree: 13 ways valley oaks teach kids of all ages
I am the father of a second and fifth grader in the Fresno Unified School District. I coach their soccer teams and actively participate in school activities. We compete on fields with little to no shade, and often my kids are indoors on smog-infused days. I seek to change this.
A majority of Fresno’s landscape emphasizes urbanization and irrigated turf. We can create a better framework for our city by highlighting our own endemic valley oak, a tree emblematic of our region.
Earth Day, 2015, in partnership with Tree Fresno, students successfully planted 25 valley oaks at Wawona Middle School. Last Saturday, Earth Day 2017, students again partnered with Tree Fresno. They gathered plans, funds and irrigation, planting eight large-canopy, drought-tolerant trees at Ruth Gibson Elementary School.
What’s the point? There are multiple reasons for these endeavors:
▪ School tree transition: Assist Valley schools to transition from short-lived mulberry and Modesto ash trees , to more appropriate long lived, drought-tolerant trees.
▪ School mobilization: Engage the school communities in all aspects planning, fund-raising, planting, and supervision. In the short term, it generates positive publicity for schools. For the long term, it provides an environmental education setting for generations.
▪ Education: Students engage in hands-on experiential learning through all stages of development from fund-raising to installation. Student participation will increase pride and ownership of the school community. Planted specimens will provide a living science lab for students of all grade levels for generations. Once educated on the natural, cultural, biological and ecological value, some students will become lifelong stewards of our Valley’s trees.
▪ Shade: Temperature in the canopy shade is 10 degrees cooler than in direct sun. Properly located on fields, the shade provides relief for students, parents, coaches, and athletes before, during and after play.
▪ Carbon sink: Valley oaks grow 70 feet wide by 70 feet tall. Throughout their more than 400 years of life, they take in massive amounts of carbon and convert it to oxygen and biomass through photosynthesis.
▪ Endemic: Valley Oaks are distributed throughout the Valley’s grassland ecosystem. They have evolved over the eons specifically to our arid climate and sandy loam soil.
▪ Drought tolerant: Water requirements change over time. During establishment, drought-tolerant trees need deep-root irrigation. After establishment, their tap roots use ground water, and surface watering may not be necessary. They use significantly less water over their lifetime than irrigated lawn.
▪ Natural barrier: Mature trees provide a natural barrier for wind, dust, noise, and pollution. Neighborhoods surrounding schools will benefit once these trees are established.
▪ Biological diversity: Valley oak habitats can support more than a hundred native species of birds, amphibians, mammals, and invertebrates. Similar-sized species support only a raction of this wildlife.
▪ Restoration: Over the past 200 years, 90 percent of valley oak habitat has been cleared for agriculture and urban development. Inadequate natural regeneration further impacts the species. The California Department of Fish and Game and the Nature Conservancy considers these trees threatened. Planting in our community will begin to reintroduce these trees into our urban landscape.
▪ Cultural heritage: The acorns from valley oaks wereused as a staple for native people in the Valley. Europeans settled near valley oak groves to feed their pigs with the acorns and farm the fertile soil.
▪ Iconic: Valley oaks are the largest of North American oaks and showcase the climax ecosystem for Central California. Ideally located in urban landscapes, they make a profound statement in terms of beauty, ecology, and restoration. Just as sequoias are the icons of the sierras and the redwoods are the icons of the Northern California Coast, valley oaks are the natural icons of the Valley.
▪ Economic value: Mature trees have been shown to measurably increase the economic value of a region. Desirability and value of nearby properties increases over time with trees maturity.
Lets make our community beautiful. When planting a new tree, I urge you to consider the valley oak. For future projects in the Valley involving valley oaks, you can donate to Tree Fresno – Valley Oak Project.
We found this great story written by Vanessa Vasconcelos on the ABC 30 Website! You can read the story the ABC 30 website by clicking the link or by scrolling down below. http://abc30.com/1815667/
By Vanessa Vasconcelos
A 1.3 mile stretch of Fancher Creek is getting a spring spruce up, but it is benefiting more than just those who frequent the trail.
Fifteen members of a Multi-Craft Construction and Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program are gearing up for graduation with a final project.
“What they’re getting is that there are not just jobs out there, there are careers that help them support their family in a manner in which they want to,” said Pat Barr, Work Development Board.
The job training is sponsored by the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board. The program connects unemployed or dislocated workers with resources to help them rejoin the workforce.
“Most of our men have only done seasonal jobs or have been laid off,” said Barr.
The six week program has a 96-percent graduation rate in a region where skilled workers are in high demand thanks to waves of development projects.
“They’re just trying to get you to be the best you can be to get that job you’re looking for,” said Zachariah Ream, pre-apprentice.
Ream got involved with the pre-apprenticeship program because of unemployment. He moved his family from Florida to the Central Valley to look for work.
Ream said the hands on experience have made it so he is prepared to take on any job.
“We’ve been able to go with sheet metal iron workers, with cement masons, and a couple other disciplines as well, but we’ve been able to see what they have to offer what their benefits are like and what works like.”
The Fancher Creek Parkway project is their final job before graduation. They are helping clear the parkway for future planting with the guidance of Tree Fresno.
There may not be a timeline of when the project will be complete but were already seeing progress along the pathway.
“Hopefully you will see some clearing and the construction of a new trail along the edge of the service road, along with trees that were selected appropriately to this region,” said Lee Ayres, Tree Fresno CEO.
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.
Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/09/26/3008373/mcewen-tree-fresno-reboots-efforts.html#storylink=cpy