Scott Wilson, Founder North East Trees
In November of 1989, the local weekly ran a notice from Occidental College “Oxy” Green Club about a presentation by TreePeople on “Stewardship of the Earth”. The public was invited. There were two presenters from TreePeople, two club members and me, the lone public. No one else showed and as we talked while waiting, I asked why no one had planted that 40-acre grassy hill behind Oxy. “Great idea Scott, you plant it”. My goal was to plant five trees per day or 25 trees a week.
The one person I knew at Oxy was Secretary to the VP of Development. We met the next week with the VP of Development, the plant manager, and the grounds manager. We proposed a planting of 500 oak trees; we got permission and a year’s supply of water and fundraising help from Oxy staff. They suggested a year to plant, we suggested three months. We arranged for 1000 trees from friends at County Forestry and we got organized. Former student Charley Cooper, a reporter for the local paper wrote an article each week, along with photos: other friends and former students met and conferred as a steering committee. We chose the name “North East Trees” (NET). Eagle Rock (ER) Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis, Sparkletts Water and others gave money for wire baskets (to keep rodents from eating the tree roots). Another student Jim Walker gave us loads of mulch. Lynne Dwyer, graduate school classmate, Bob Cota, Willie Nakatani from Eagle Rock, as well as Clare Marter Kenyon , Lynette Kampe, Susan Kromaka, and others from Mt. Washington all volunteered. A County Forestry ranger brought the trees then volunteered to come back Saturday to teach the County method of planting trees.
Seven Saturdays later, we had planted and were caring for 700 trees (I was already ahead of my self-imposed schedule), mostly native oaks. Ron Jorgenson, former student, and his son Scott installed 250 feet of main water line. Bob Taylor, former student, designed and we installed the drip system paid for by Century Cable (Adelphia).
We planted hundreds more trees and cared for them. Dr. John Slaughter and then-Councilman Richard Alatorre attended and recognized the volunteers. Eagle Rock High School scheduled Saturday ROP classes and the Summer Youth Program helped youth learn new skills and attitudes. We had little staff, we had little funds and we had little credibility. That’s the past, now let me tell you about the present.
Yes, we still plant trees but largely as a part of the design and building of mini-parks and restoration of habitat. We have a core of 15 professional staff, we have a federal grant to train local at-risk youth and we have many exciting projects under way. With the assistance of staff and the Board, we have outlined an ambitious series for the current year and beyond that will contribute to “restoring nature’s services” And, oh, I’m eight years ahead of my tree planting schedule (over 30,000 and counting), and look at all the nice people I’ve met along the way.