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Kim Gabellini

Neighbors celebrate Arbor Day and honor the victim of a hit and run

on October 24, 2011

After his sister passed away about a month and half ago, Keoni Larot moved to Richmond. A day after he arrived, David Cox, a neighbor in a wheelchair, was killed on the corner directly in front of Larot’s new house in a hit and run that remains unsolved.

The North and East Tree Team, with help from volunteers, planted 40 trees to celebrate Arbor Day in Larot’s neighborhood on Saturday. They planted the first tree, a young Gingko tree, in honor of Cox.

Kim Gabellini

Tree Team member, Kim Gabellini, plants a tree in front of Teri Katz’s house on Esmond Avenue

The tree will grow on the corner where Cox was killed, a few feet from the pile of desiccated flowers, dingy stuffed animals and faded pictures that still lay there to pay tribute to Cox.

“It is symbolic of what we can all do for each other, using the earth and using the human spirit,” Larot said who suggested the tree dedication. “I thought it was appropriate.”

Larot chose a Gingko because it represents security. Once the tree is stable enough, the Tree Team will put a copper ring on the base of the trunk, with Cox’s name etched into it.

Trees planted in urban areas, including Cox’s, must have branches that won’t interfere with telephone lines and root systems that won’t lift the sidewalk. Richmond has a list of approved trees that fit these criteria.

Some homeowners didn’t want deciduous trees, because they want to avoid having to rake falling leaves, and so were provided with evergreens.

Carmen Argueta, who has been living on Esmond Avenue for three years, had three trees planted on the sidewalks around her house during the Arbor Day event.

“It looks beautiful with green stuff in front of my house,” said Argueta, who has also planted her own fruit trees in her backyard and numerous rose bushes in her front.

None of the trees planted are native to California, which was an issue Councilmember Tom Butt raised after planting a tree.

“Street trees aren’t native, this is not a native environment,” Parks and Landscaping Superintendent Chris Chamberlain said. “This is a very difficult environment for native trees.”

Though Butt had some native recommendations, even nonnative trees are more advantageous for any neighborhood than no trees at all.

Without trees, brush or dirt to absorb it, water will hit sidewalks, flow into the street and storm drains and add to flood issues and pollution. In addition, street trees can reduce the heat island effect, said JC Miller, a landscape architect at Vallier Design Associates.

The heat island effect explains how pavement in urban areas reflects heat all day, enough to keep the nights warm. Planting street trees can reduce temperatures in urban areas by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since trees are carbon absorbers, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said, planting street trees is also a part of Richmond’s climate action plan.

Richmond has an estimated 40,000 trees, which Miller said he wants to increase tenfold.

Despite the Tree Teams’ ambitious visions for urban trees, they lack the necessary resources and funding.

Any homeowner can fill out an Adopt-A-Tree-Form to have a tree planted on their sidewalk but there is currently a backlog of work to be done on that list.

It is especially expensive when the Tree Team needs to rip up concrete — about a 15-16 square foot section in a sidewalk — to plant a tree.

But they can get around it when homeowners like Keoni Larot are able to pay for some of it themselves.

“If they could afford it – great. If they can’t, we raise the donations,” said Ellen Seskin, a Tree Team volunteer.

The Tree Team continues to fundraise for their vision, and with the help of volunteers and local government officials, they are 40 trees closer to their goals after Saturday’s event.

Fatou Faye, who is a week short of her 10th birthday, contributed by planting two trees with her brother on Esmond Avenue last Saturday.

“I think this is a good idea for the community,” Faye said. “This is what Mother Nature gave us and we should take care of it.”


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