LA5 Rotary at Hazard Park

By Lauren Schlau

Saturday, March 10, dawned cool and overcast, with rain threatening, not exactly our storied sunny Southern California weather.  But braving the elements a group of hearty souls of varied ages, cultures, and organizations convened at Hazard Park in East LA to muddy our hands and shoes to plant some trees.

Organized by City Plants and the LA Department of Recreation & Parks, volunteers from USC Price School Alumni Cub, LA DWP, and LA5 Rotary were invited to participate in the event, which was made possible by a grant from LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis.
City Plants is a non-profit partnering with the City of Los Angeles to distribute and plant 20,000 trees throughout the city each year. Executive Director Elizabeth Skrzat, who serves as LA5’s Social Chair, invited the club to participate in spring plantings this year. It was especially important for our club specifically, and Rotary, in general, to be represented to help fulfill Rotary International’s now 28-year-old initiative to protect and replenish earth’s natural resources.  This message was reinforced by RI President Ian Riseley who asked when he took office that each Rotarian plant one tree through April 22, 2018, Earth Day, or 1.2 million trees total!

Why trees?  As most of us have learned trees are wonders in so many ways, from purifying the air through the co2-o2 exchange and providing shade, to protecting hillsides from dangerous run-off, especially vital in California after wildfires.  As well, trees contribute to economic development and community betterment visible in neighborhoods with adequate trees and plants.  According to Riseley, trees show a long-term commitment to and capture the imaginations of the community.  As most trees will long outlive those who plant them, for each tree we plant we leave a personal legacy for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations. 

And something else about trees, as described by Peter Wohlleben in the April 2018 Rotarian Magazine. Trees are found to be social, interconnected by providing nutrients to one another through their root systems and branches. Most trees are not strong enough to live as well or as long on its own; rather they thrive in an environment of trees, often diverse not homogeneous.  It’s essentially a social network; in fact much like Rotary, where each of us pools our individual efforts to create something much larger and longer lasting than any one of us can do alone. Each tree, like each of us, is valuable and contributes to the well-being of one another.

So back to Saturday at Hazard Park. We Rotarians, Calvin, Jose, and his daughter Isabella, Elizabeth and myself were part of the larger group of 50+ who were first instructed and then given shovels to plant some 30 trees of various species around the park. Most went on walkways and next to benches to shade people passing by or resting during the summer, and each one enriching the overall landscape of the park. After we finished – from what we hear in a record time of 2 hours - we were treated to homemade tacos and drinks. Most lingered and mingled, making new friends and enjoying our company and completed handiwork.  As well, each LA City resident was entitled to take a free tree to plant at home.  I chose a pomegranate for shade and hopefully soon for ripe red fruit.

Next time you pass a tree, pause and take a minute to thank whoever planted it and remark upon all the benefits you experience as you pass by. And perhaps you will make a mental note – I am going to plant a tree this week and help save the earth!