Keeping Memories of Trees Alive and Growing in L.A.

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Did you grow up in Los Angeles? Can you remember what the streets and parks looked like when you were a small child? Is it hard to imagine what used to stand where a new mall or office building now looms?

For Josh, growth is measured by a pine tree in Van Nuys.

When Josh was in the first grade in the early 1980s, he went on a field trip to TreePeople with his class from the Open Magnet School. The memory was still vivid when he came to talk to us at our booth at an Earth Day event this year. “I remember that at the end of the field trip,” he says, “each student received a small seedling to plant in their backyard. Not having room in the backyard, I asked my parents to help me put it in a small planter area in the front, right next to our house.”

But in 1985 his parents sold that San Fernando Valley house, and Josh got wind of the new owners’ plans to cut down the little tree he had planted. “At that young age I felt a sense of responsibility for the tree and, in tears, pleaded with my parents not to let this happen. Somehow they were able to convince the new owners to spare the tree.”

Thirty years later, Josh’s pine tree still stands where he planted it—as do countless other trees that, thanks to TreePeople volunteers, have helped green the city for the last four decades. As they continue to grow, they will contribute to the health of Los Angeles for a long time to come. The tree that 6-year-old Josh planted provides shade to both the house and its neighbor, creates oxygen, absorbs carbon dioxide, cleans and replenishes our water supply, and provides habitat for numerous birds and beneficial insects.

If you live long enough in the same city you get used to seeing some of your favorite places disappear when new developments are launched. Luckily, sometimes you can gauge the development of your town based on what’s still there, like Josh does. “My thanks to Tree People for helping keep a part of my childhood, like the tree, alive and growing.”

Interested in creating your own memories by volunteering with TreePeople? We welcome all ages! Text TREE + your e-mail address to 51555 to sign up for volunteer alerts, and check our calendar regularly for events you can join. Coldwater Canyon Park work days take place each Thursday in June, as well as on Saturday, June 8.

Carolyn Gray Anderson is an editor, writer, and nonprofit communications professional in Los Angeles. She volunteers regularly with Good Karma Gardens and at the Learning Garden at Venice High School, enjoying many a meal straight from the earth. She loves TreePeople almost as much as she loves trees.