March 9, 2013 – El Segundo, CA — A jogger accustomed to a solitary trip down the industrial portion of W. Grand Ave. to the beach stopped to ask, “What’s going on here?” He looked around at the nearly 300 volunteers, tools and materials neatly positioned by trees along the .3 mile street, sponsor banners on the fence and young people in yellow hats clearly in charge. Upon learning that this was Arbor Day and he had wandered into El Segundo’s 26th Annual Celebration, the stranger asked shyly if he could help too.
That was the spirit driving this spectacular volunteer effort to care for the Millennium Trees that line the western entrance of El Segundo, a street that is technically in the City of Los Angeles. “We have been working on this for months, and in a couple of hours it was over,” remarked Samantha Cano who was one of the 18 youth supervisors who made that possible. In truth, this was a continuation of an effort begun by the TREE MUSKETEERS pioneers in 1988. Youth Manager Hannah Poyourow explained.
Among the original goals of third-graders who founded Tree Musketeers in 1987 was to green up all the entrances to El Segundo, including this one. They set to writing letters and sitting through long public meetings. While avoiding the young Musketeers, the City of Los Angeles planted trees on this street twice, but they all died both times.
One of Tree Musketeers’ founders, Tara Church, was asked to represent America’s youth on President Clinton’s White House Millennium Council in 1999. The prestigious group planned Millennium Green celebrations around the country. Tara returned home intent upon having a South Bay millennium celebration right here on this street. Finally a deal was struck for DWP to provide water to the 104 Melaleuca trees that were planted here on January 29, 2000. That is why this area is known as Millennium Row.
Life for the trees in this inhospitable area has not been easy. Most trees only require intensive care for the first three years, but the Millennium Trees still need significant attention due to the ocean salt and industrial pollution. These trees have faced other affronts as well. Berry vines the community planted in 2001 to further green the street by covering the rusty fences were removed by Scattergood gardeners who then beheaded the Millennium Trees three years later.
When elected to City Council in 2004, Eric Busch’s first adventure in diplomacy was to lead a painstaking process of getting a written agreement between Tree Musketeers and DWP regarding Millennium Row. That was instrumental to forging the congenial relationship that exists today.
Busch has served among community leaders since 2004 on the Arbor Day task force. This year that group also included Lily Craig of Chevron, Mike Rotolo of TG Construction, El Segundo City Councilmembers Bill Fisher & Marie Fellhauer, Tree Musketeers board member Scott Houston, youth leaders Julian Poyourow & Blake Parker, Recreation & Parks staff Art Murphy & Allison Fiorini, and Tree Musketeers staff.
When asked why he keeps coming back after 10 years of Arbor Days, Fisher replies this way. “There is a great tradition and wonderful legacy of Tree Musketeers in El Segundo, and we are lucky to have such an organization in our city. They empower kids in ways that I haven’t seen before and accomplish big things year after year. It’s quite inspiring, and that’s the reason I support them. Plus we get trees planted and cared for on a scale that most organizations would envy if they understood what is done year after year after year. It’s quite inspiring, and that’s the reason I support them.”
In addition to its own generous contribution to Arbor Day as presenting sponsor, Chevron matched tree care donations of any size while providing morning snacks, T-shirts and lunch. Contributions are still being accepted and are not for just a day, but an entire year of nurturing over 1,800 trees that depend on Tree Musketeers and its volunteers. Contributors can be proud of how effectively donations are used. Because of this generous community, Tree Musketeers can boast of a 97% tree survival rate. This becomes even more impressive when you learn that 90% is the industry standard.
Arbor Day 2013 was topped off with a drawing for great prizes ranging from $500 to $1,500. While thanking the spirited troops for their participation, youth director Julian Poyourow reminded, “Mark your calendars for March 8, 2014 when we will once again celebrate Arbor Day!”