Yes, you read that right – “Santree” – as in the Arbor Day Foundation’s “Tree City USA” program. Santee is one of the nationally-recognized “Tree Cities” in the country, reflecting the city’s commitment to urban forestry programs. If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of trees in the community, particularly in the city parks. In fact, the parks are so full of trees (considering the need to balance open and recreation space with trees) that this year the Santree Fest was held at one of the local elementary schools. Cajon Park School, located just a few blocks north of Santana High School and across the street from Woodglen Vista Park, was the site of this years “plant-in.” Several dozen parent volunteers joined with community groups and local businesses to plant trees along the north and east sides of the school and in the newly landscape entry area. Among the local businesses that provided worker and/or supplies were The Hartford and Best Buy. The festivities included music by the Honky Tonk Kings; goodies from Coldstone, Hot Dog on a Stick, Smoothie King, Starbuck’s, and Souplantation; and displays from community groups and businesses.
The weather could have been a little sunnier, but the cloud cover did make the work easier than full sun would have. The festival was scheduled to begin at 10:00, but it looked as if much of the planting had gotten started before that. By the time my daughter and I arrived around noon most of the planting on the north fence line was pretty much completed (not that I had planned to help with the planting – I’m a photographer, not an arborist). It was obvious that everyone was having a good time – there was no griping or arguing that I could hear going on from the volunteers, the folks who had just come to watch or enjoy the booths were smiling – it was just an all-around good time.
Cajon Park School was a great location for the festival – and not just because it’s my daughter’s school. They have a wonderful program there that gets the kids directly involved with growing things – The Garden. That’s what it’s called, and that’s what it is. On the west side of the upper campus is an area that has been set aside as a garden, with plots for most of the grades 1-6 classrooms. They have a multitude of edibles there, from carrots and radishes to snap peas and broccoli to cabbages and chard. The garden also has an herb area with thyme, oregano, parsley, and nasturtiums (edible flowers that have a peppery taste to them). There is enough to write about that I will devote another blog just to The Garden.
Back at the festival, there were quite a few community groups in attendance. The Santee Teen Center had a booth that not only informed people about the center, but also had little craft activities that the teens helped younger children with. CalFire was also there with Smokey Bear and a brush rig, and I had a nice chat with one of the firefighters from the squad. My daughter really enjoyed talking to the volunteers from Mission Trails Park and checking out the skull models they had – a skunk, a raccoon, and a coyote. I’m sure she will be bugging me to get over to the park again soon. The Wildlife Rescue group was also there with a hand-raised crow that someone had been keeping as a pet until it got to be too much to handle.