Last Saturday (March 14) was the fourth annual SanTree Fest celebrating Earth Day and Santee’s sixth straight year being named a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation. This year the event was held at Mast Park, which runs along the San Diego River just north of Mission Gorge Road. The celebration included tree planting, non-native vegetation removal, and trash clean up. There were also information booths from several local and state organizations and local companies, booths from a number of local restaurants, and music. The 2009 Miss Santee and Miss Santee Teen were on hand, along with several of the runners up (look for a post on them soon).
A major partner in the festivities was the San Diego River Park Foundation, which coordinated the vegetation and trash removal activities. The day started out cool, overcast, and a little damp – perfect weather for digging holes to plant trees or cutting down unwanted invasive vegetation. The main clean up work went on at the east end of the park, just north of Wal-Mart. If you have never taken a close look, there is an entrance to a walking trail at the northwest corner of the parking lot, just north of the store entrance. If you wander down the trail you will come to a small bridge over the river. Just beyond that, the Foundation had set up shop for the clean up activities. On the trail I passed several families out with their trash pickers and bags, pulling junk out of the brush along the way. Then at the river several groups were involved in cutting out and removing non-native trees and brush. The goal is to help return the river to as close to a natural state as possible – taking in to account that it runs through the middle of the city.
The main activity, tree planting, took place in an open area near the center of the park. Dozens of volunteers were involved, including a large group from Hartford Insurance – easily distinguished by their maroon T-shirts. I’m not sure how many trees were planted, but one section of the park was a mass of people digging, planting, and filling.
Meanwhile, others were taking advantage of the information and food booths. There was a great deal of good information available on everything from waste and recycling t0 water pollution and smart planting choices. Organizations as varied as the California Center for Sustainable Energy, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), and the San Diego River Conservancy. Local restaurants sharing their goodies included Rubio’s, Cafe 67, Hungry Howie’s and Souplantation. Below are some photos of the different booths, along with links to the various websites in case you want more information.
The Urban Corps of San Diego had information on utility-friendly and shade trees
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had information on the Urban Forestry Program, as well as information from the National Arbor Day Foundation.
The San Diego Regional Urban Forest Council (part of the California Urban Forests Council) and the Natural Resources Conservation Services shared a booth with their information on resources, workshops, and events. Sarah Marino (l) and Danielle Hirsch (r) from the local Escondido office of NRCS talked about the brush removal and modification programs and the federal money available for the programs.
Another urban tree organization on hand was United Voices for Healthier Communities, also allied with the California Urban Forest Council.
Along with the San Diego River Park Foundation, one of its branches – Friends of Santee’s River Park – had information on activities and upcoming events. One of their projects, the RiverBlitz, surveys the river to identify and map problems for later clean ups. The next RiverBlitz will be on April 4 in Mission Valley and April 11 in Santee.
The San Diego River Conservancy, a state agency within the Resources Agency of the State of California, was there to present information on its activities in support of the river. Exectutive Officer Michael Nelson (in the green hat) explained about the agency’s work to eliminate 14 acres of invasive plants from along the river near Ward Road.
Tom Walters and Connie Wood, Trail Guides at the Mission Trails Regional Park, were on hand to share information about events, activities, and more.
County of San Diego Vector Control and San Diego County Libraries were there to share information along with the other groups and organizations. Also on hand were several companies, including event sponsor Waste Management, SDG&E, and West Coast Arborists.
Of course there were the restaurant booths as well:
Cafe 67 (The sub clubs were especially popular)
Souplantation (love those blueberry muffins)
Just to make sure everyone had a good time, SanTree Fest also included a few other activities…
Lowe’s sponsored a “Pot a Plant” booth.
The City of Santee sponsored a craft booth, with help from the Santana High School cheerleaders.
The County Parks and Recreation Department gave people an up-close look at local wildlife.
Music for SanTree Fest was provided by the Virtual Strangers, a top local bluegrass band.
Santana Cheerleaders passed out avacado cutters.
2009 Miss Santee, Sierra Billock, and Miss Santee Teen, Nicole Ehlke, greeted visitors.
West Coast Arborists presented a tree climbing demonstration.
You can check out the websites of any of the organizations involved if you want information about getting involved in conservation and community activities.