Categorized | Environment

Saving The Trees; Volunteers Needed

BY DANIEL MCGLYNN //

Great cities are often defined by the way they look. New York has a one of a kind skyline, San Francisco has the distinctive Golden Gate Bridge and El Cerrito may soon have a unique collection of trees hand-selected by residents. In the next few weeks, a new citizen group, the Tree Committee, is being organized and they are looking for residents to take a part in order to implement a city-wide greening effort

The committee, which will consist of up to 15 members, will be the “guiding force for the Urban Forest Master Plan,” said Bruce King, of the city’s public works department and the staff coordinator for the Tree Committee.

The Urban Forest Master Plan, which was approved by the city council last year, was developed to address the issue of aging trees in El Cerrito. Many of the trees in the city are between 30 to 50 years old.

As trees age, they are either removed because they become too big, or they just fall over. As these elderly trees are cut or die, citizens were concerned that they were not being replaced. “A lot of residents thought something needed to be done, the streets were looking bare,” said King.

The volunteers on the committee will be appointed for four years and will spend most of that time educating El Cerrito residents about the value of urban street trees and planning new planting programs. “The committee will be promoters of trees and identify specific projects,” said King. “One example is planting single or a couple of varieties of trees in different neighborhoods that identify that area, or planting trees at the gateway or entrance to the city that calls attention and says, ‘You’re in El Cerrito now.’”

The Urban Forest Master Plan does not have a budget yet, but the city council has committed $25,000 to the Tree Committee to get the project up and running and an additional $10,000 for the next five years. King expects that committee members will meet “three or four times a year and maybe a few more frequent meetings.”

King says the Tree Committee would ideally start with seven to eight members. Interested residents should contact city hall to get an application. Committee members, unlike some other city commissions or boards are not required to have specific or related experience in order to qualify for service. King said the city is “looking for lay people with an interest in trees.” The city council will review applications, hold interviews and make recommendations for appointments.

The new committee is preceded by a citizen group called the Friends of El Cerrito Trees. The group is less active now because several members moved out of town. It also replaces the Tree Commission, which only dealt with issues of the view ordinance and did little in the way of education or tree planting.

Besides civic minded volunteers for the Tree Committee, the city is looking to fill other openings on city boards, commissions and committees. Some opportunities include: the Arts and Culture Commission, Committee on Aging, Crime Prevention Committee, Design Review Board, Economic Development Board, Environmental Quality Committee, Financial Advisory Board, Human Relations Commission, Parks and Recreation, and the Planning Commission. The Arts and Culture Commission and the Design Review Board prefer applicants with relevant professional experience. The volunteer commission positions usually meet once a month.

Anyone interested in learning more about the open positions or to get an application, contact City Clerk Cheryl Morse at 510-215-4305 or cmorse@el-cerrito.ca.us. The application can also be found at www.el-cerrito.org.

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