In the summer of 1973, the first stirrings of what would become TreePeople began in the mountains above Riverside, California. Those early efforts by teenagers to help protect and restore the San Bernardino National Forest soon blossomed into Southern California’s largest environmental movement—mobilizing 3 million volunteers to plant 3 million trees. Earlier this month, TreePeople returned home to the Inland Empire. More than 60 volunteers helped break ground on TreePeople’s ambitious new project to help plant and distribute 2,000 trees to the Eastside community of Riverside.
“It was fantastic!,” said Clarissa Cervantez, the City Council member for Riverside’s 2nd Ward which includes the Eastside community. “Residents were taught how to plant the trees and then they went out in different groups to plant. We had volunteers come from the University of Riverside, our high school’s environmental clubs; it was amazing to see. My favorite thing was hearing the conversations, the laughter and the communication between the groups and the way that they supported each other. Just seeing the community together doing this kind of work, especially post-Covid.”
The sense of community is at the heart of TreePeople’s work. Before the first trees went in the ground, our team of dedicated organizers have been learning from the community and working hand-in-hand with both residents and city leaders to provide new green spaces where there is the most need and where they will have the most impact.
“The project includes the planting of 1,000 residential street trees in addition to the distribution of 500 fruit trees and 500 shade trees,” said Mario Dagonel, TreePeople’s Senior Manager of Community Organizing.“We will also organize a long term tree care strategy with residents, so the trees planted become full mature canopies that make the east side more climate resilient for the future.”
As the effects of climate change continue to warm cities like Riverside, these trees will help keep the residents in the Eastside community cool and healthy. Riverside already faces more than 172 days with temperatures over 90 degrees. Those numbers are predicted to rise in the coming years. By partnering with the city to increase tree canopy in the Eastside neighborhood, we can cool surface temperatures on hot days by up to 40 degrees and reduce air temperatures by almost 10 degrees.
Things are just getting started in Riverside this planting season. Find out how you can get involved to help plant a greener, healthier Riverside by visiting treepeople.org/riverside for volunteer opportunities and to stay up to date on tree distributions.