1981 – 1984

The City of Los Angeles Planning Department drafts an Air Quality Management Plan that calls for the planting of a million trees to help comply with the air-quality standards of the 1970 Clean Air Act. the city estimates that it will require twenty years to plant and 200 million dollars. It turns to TreePeople. In response to this forecast, its recent disaster-relief success, and the Doomsday Report, TreePeople launches the Million Tree Campaign to support Los Angeles residents to plant one million trees in time for the Olympics. The millionth tree is planted in the San Fernando Valley, four days before the 1984 Olympic torch is lit. To celebrate, staff and volunteers go to the mountains and plant 7,000 seedlings in one day.


In February, 3,000 volunteers (responding to 1,200 calls for help) are mobilized to assist local homeowners in volunteer-organized emergency-relief effort during excessive rains and flooding. Andy Lipkis appears on The Tonight Show, and Johnny Carson makes a personal contribution to replace shovels lost during the relief work. On the tenth anniversary of Earth Day, 2,000 people attend a celebration at the TreePeople headquarters.


In March, TreePeople closes the Marina Freeway for a Tree Run to raise money for urban forestry. The closure, a first for an L.A. freeway, attracts 5,000 runners and makes California transportation history by requiring special legislation in Culver City, Los Angeles County, and the California State Legislature. TreePeople membership program begins.


Severe rains and local flooding give TreePeople its first experience in mobilizing volunteers for disaster-relief work, resulting in the headquarters being designated L.A.’s Emergency Resource Center.  Programs at Coldwater Canyon Park include Little Treehouse summer camp, community seminars, and Eco-tours for schools.  The California Department of Education’s Environmental Education Program awards TreePeople its first education grant, and 15,000 school children are reached in the first year.  The California Conservation Project officially becomes TreePeople, Inc.


TreePeople officially takes over the Mountain Fire Station grounds as its headquarters; the site is immediately designated as Coldwater Canyon Park. By the end of this fourth year, TreePeople has planted 50,000 trees.


The Los Angeles City Recreation & Parks Department grants TreePeople a conditional-use permit of its Mountain Fire Station 108 (which eventually became Coldwater Canyon Park) for developing a small-scale nursery to grow seedlings. The Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) donates a ’50s vintage fuel truck, which becomes TreePeople’s water truck.


Year two begins with a goal of 10,000 trees potted during the week of Arbor Day. Agencies involved include the California Division of Forestry, California Air National Guide, U.S Forest Service, Los Angeles Urban Forest Council, L.A. Bicentennial Committee, Southern California Edison, Camp JCA, and numerous civic groups and schools. The public unofficially renames the California Conservation Project “the tree people”.


The first Los Angeles Times article, “Andy vs. the Bureaucratic Deadwood,” appears in April with a public request for four thousand dollars to fund what is to be the first TreePeople activity (although no formal organization exists at this time), a summer tree planting of 8,000 trees in the San Bernardino National Forest. By summer, $10,000 is raised. The California Conservation Project is created as a non-profit corporation to handle the money needed to do the tree planting.


At at a camp up in the San Bernardino Mountains, 15 year old camp counselor, Andy Lipkis, learned that air pollution from the city was killing trees all around his camp and throughout the forests of southern California. The US Forest Service rangers shared with the campers that the trees were dying so quickly there would possibly be no forest remaining by the year 2000 — unless someone replanted the forest with smog resistant trees. Since the government wasn’t doing anything, Andy figured it was up to kids like him and his fellow campers to take action.