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Building Community through Trees

By Kevin Ziemke

November 1, 2016

There are many reasons why trees are so important to our world. For me, the most compelling reason revolves around fostering and sustaining healthy communities. My introduction to the wonderfully dynamic world of trees began with bicycles.

My passion for cycling has led to my love of trees. Many years ago, I had read an advertisement for a neighborhood tree planting by bicycle, to showcase ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint. I remember thinking, "Rad! How cool!" I didn't know what to expect on that early, grey, misty morning, but my qualms were quickly doused with bagels, friendly faces, and strong, hot coffee.

This was the first planting by bicycle for this organization, so expectations were appropriately humble. Our team had the "hilly" route, so we quickly loaded up our trees on our gaggle of trailers and cargo bicycles. I was truly inspired as our rag tag crew was slowly riding down a busy road in SE Portland, with leaning trees and shovels dragging. That day I came to understand how powerful trees can be. They can create community by bringing complete strangers together for a common good, planting trees for future generations to enjoy.

We managed to get all the trees planted -- some were easy and some difficult, but that is a part of community building; not everything will be easy. Tree plantings by bicycle have become quite common in Portland now, I had the opportunity to lead a few and it was incredibly inspiring to see people so eager and willing to do the hard work of community building. There always seems to be spark of creativity and spontaneity during these planting events, by bicycle or not, it seems to be innate in humans.

So, when I moved to Sacramento, I was in search of something similar to do with trees and community building. I looked to the Tree Foundation to fill that part of my soul again. It always amazes me, the fact that trees are responsible for so much in this world, one of the greatest being the habitat for humans and other living creatures. Since trees provide so much for our community, I am working at the Sacramento Tree Foundation trying to do my part to help the trees.