Young people need to plant their roots by joining Los Banos Tree Commission

Planted 20 years ago, this tree provides shade and beauty along the Los Banos canal trail.
Planted 20 years ago, this tree provides shade and beauty along the Los Banos canal trail. Special to the Enterprise

Next month I will complete my term as a member of Los Banos’ Tree Commission and will leave the group after serving for the past eight years. I’m hoping other residents apply for the commission, especially persons younger than I am.

It’s not that I’m against anyone 73 or older applying; they are welcome to do so, and they may indeed be selected. But I’d especially like to see younger people get involved with trees, because planting a tree now will benefit them more than it will senior citizens.

John Spevak New Photo
John Spevak, columnist for the Enterprise. Enterprise file

Trees that I planted or saw planted 20 years ago are now wonderfully tall and mature. Twenty years from now I probably won’t be around to see a tree planted today, but younger people will.

Two other members of the Tree Commission are, like me, senior citizens. Another commissioner who has served with dedication, Brenda Latham, is leaving the commission. This creates a second opening on the commission for applicants.

I think it’s good for public bodies like the Tree Commission to have turnover. After eight years it seemed right for me to turn over my commissioner’s role to someone else.

Now is the time for interested persons to apply to serve on the Tree Commission, as well as other city commissions, including the Planning, Airport, and Parks and Recreation commissions. I hope many Los Banosans take the time to find the one-page application form for the commission of their choice on the city’s website, fill it out and turn it in by Dec. 31.

I have particularly high hopes for the Tree Commission. I think it’s essential for sustaining the city’s quality of life, working in coordination with the Parks and Recreation Commission to ensure quality green space in our community.

Trees are a valuable resource, providing shade, beauty and clean air. One of my fellow tree commissioners, Steve Creighton, pointed out that a single tree during its lifetime is worth almost $200,000.

He cited a Michigan State University website that calculated the value of a tree over a 50-year life: oxygen generation — $31,250; air pollution control — $62,000; decreasing soil erosion and increasing soil fertility — $31,250; recycling water — $37,500; providing homes for birds and animals — $31,250.

People may quibble about the exact dollar amounts, but it’s clear trees are a valuable resource, and this doesn’t include the coolness of their shade on a warm day or the aesthetic pleasure of green leaves rustling in the breeze.

All of this comes as a result of planting a young tree, the cost of which, including stakes and soil amendments, comes to only about $100. Of course, trees have to be maintained with proper watering, fertilizing and pruning.

People who serve on the Tree Commission represent the rest of the community in advocating for trees, including appropriate planting and maintaining around homes and businesses and in parks and other green spaces.

Tree commissioners over the years have also encouraged the city to apply for grants that result in more trees for the community, including the trees along the CCID canal and the trailway, and for trees to be planted in Pacheco Park, if the city is awarded a grant it recently applied for.

During the time the Tree Commission (which once was called the Tree Committee) has been around, going back more than 30 years, it has encouraged city councils to pass ordinances requiring that trees be planted with each new home and that businesses provide enough trees in parking areas to create a 50% shade canopy at maturity.

Unfortunately, over the past 30 years, I’ve also seen city councils, when it’s time to develop city budgets, overlook trees when appropriating dollars. I realize fire and police protection deserve prime attention, but the city also must show support for trees in the way which means the most — with money. This includes having enough dollars to plant trees and regularly prune them with sufficient equipment, materials and staff.

The Tree Commission also helps educate other residents about trees, especially explaining which trees survive and thrive in Los Banos’ soil and climate and which provide the most shade.

The commission also encourages interested residents to donate to the city’s “Plant-a-Tree” fund, which has been around since 1999 but currently has a low balance. By donating $100 to the fund, a person will know a tree will be planted with appropriate fertilizing and staking within existing irrigation systems.

The Tree Commission meets only four times a year and commissioners serve only a two-year term (which can be extended), so it doesn’t take a large commitment. But it performs functions which are essential to a quality community.

I hope many persons apply to be commissioners, and I hope that the city council accepts from among applicants those persons who are the most passionate about the importance of trees to Los Banos.

On another note: Retired Judge Tomar Mason, once a resident of Los Banos, is offering locals an opportunity to attend the concert of soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, a world-class singer, in Fresno on Oct. 26. Bayrakdarian won first prize at the Operalia International Opera Competition and has appeared in venues throughout the world, including New York, Salzburg and Paris.

Anyone interested in hearing Bayrakdarian this Saturday can call Fresno’s Lively Arts Foundation at 559-270-3212, mention Los Banos and Judge Mason, and get two tickets for the price of one.

John Spevak wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. His email is john.spevak@gmail.com.