The Magic of That First Planting Day

At the now-verdant Hansen Dam Recreation Center in Sylmar, Roger Klemm approached “his” trees for the first time in nearly two decades since planting them. The sight of their tremendous growth brought a look of wonder to his face. Thirty-nine mature trees now thrive at the site of this TreePeople planting; they both accent the landscape with shade and enhance its biodiversity.

When he first visited the area many years ago, Roger was surprised at how bare the surrounding land seemed to be. “I saw holes, and wanted to fill them,” he reflects. As a local resident with an appreciation for the native ecosystem, Roger felt compelled to correct the tree deficiency. One of his neighbors recommended that he get involved with TreePeople, so he signed-up for TreePeople’s Citizen Forester Program in the fall of 1994.

During the next few months of planning, Roger rallied to raise funds and solicit assistance from neighbors and other environmental groups. The planting event took place in January of 1995, and Roger looks back on it as a “close to magical” experience.

Although the unusually wet winter brought rain showers the entire week before the planting, Roger remembers the clouds parting to allow thirty people to plant sixty trees throughout the day. Roger remembers one of the trees, an Englemann Oak named Gloria (pictured above) particularly. On the day of the planting, he dedicated this tree to a departed friend—she liked to joke that oak trees would only do well in “hoity-toity neighborhoods like San Marino.” But years later, Roger’s trees are still proving her wrong.

In the months following the planting, Roger continued to fervently care for the new trees. He watered the seedlings, scheduled replanting events when the seedlings were damaged, and helped park officials to take precautionary measures to protect the area from further threats.

Roger’s involvement inspired him to plant a native garden at his son’s school, create a Sunland Welcome Nature Garden, and, of course, lead further tree planting events. But, throughout his continuing involvement in bettering his city, he maintains that “the magic of the first [planting] day will forever be with me.”


This blog post was a combined effort of two TreePeople storytelling interns.
Appreciation to both Bethany Ritz and Emma Schiffer.

By Emma Schiffer

Emma Schiffer has been a TreePerson since third grade; she got involved when her class sold popcorn to raise money for Treepeople. Although she wasn't selected to bear the symbolic giant check to Treepeople's headquarters, she harbored no grudges and continued to volunteer with them throughout high school. She currently attends UC Berkeley and is working as Treepeople's storytelling and photography management intern during the summer.