Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian Trees provide a canopy of shade in several places along Ohlone parkway in Watsonville.

Over the next two decades, the city of Watsonville plans to add thousands of trees to its landscape, create a plan to take care of them and train crews of young people to aid in that effort.

This comes thanks to the city’s Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP), which the city council unanimously adopted on April 23.

Watsonville Wetlands Watch Executive Director Jonathan Pilch called the plan a “major milestone” for Watsonville, which at 9.4% has the smallest tree canopy—the amount of leaves, branches and stems that can be seen from above—in the Central Coast.

By comparison, the city of Santa Cruz has a 39% canopy cover, Pilch said.

Efforts to boost that number are important, Pilch said, and go beyond the simple act of simply planting trees.

Street trees can increase property value, lower surface temperatures by 18 degrees, reduce stress levels among residents, and help clean the air, he said.

Pilch also pointed to studies showing that trees on school campuses can raise test scores and improve student behavior.

They also sequester greenhouse gasses and capture carbon, both critical as human-caused global warming escalates, he said. 

“A lot of people think of tree planting as an environmental issue, but it’s just as strongly a public health issue,” he said. “Trees are an essential part of a community’s infrastructure.”

The city created the Urban Greening Plan in 2012, but that “vision document” had no teeth and languished until recently when WWW, Davey Resource Group and city officials began to implement it.

These efforts include planting more than 2000 trees in the city over the last five years, Pilch said.

Included in the plan are plans to create 60 paid high school internships and to recruit volunteers from the community.

“It’s a tremendous amount of youth and community support for the work,” Pilch said.

The city recently secured a $3.2 million grant to implement the first five years of the Urban Forest Plan, provide free trees and funding ways to address trees that impact utilities.

The city is also planning the first-ever Urban Forest Festival this year, which they hope will become an annual event.

The city council authorized the application for Cal Fire Urban Forestry Program grant funds on April 14, 2020. The city was awarded a $700,000 grant from that program the following August. 

For information, visit watsonvillecommunityforest.org.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA. https://pajaronian.com/r-p-reporter-honored-by-csba/


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