The South County Annex in northern Gilroy has relatively few trees in its midst. Despite some trees that border the property at the corner of Wren and Farrell avenues, the campus is mostly concrete, grass and dirt.
The former Antonio Del Buono Elementary School, which now houses programs of the Santa Clara County Office of Education, will look much more shady in the coming decades, but in a positive way.
On Arbor Day, Our City Forest, a San Jose-based nonprofit that provides trees and educational services for residents, businesses and jurisdictions, planted 27 saplings across the campus, and marked the occasion with a celebration April 29 in conjunction with the County of Santa Clara Office of Sustainability and County Office of Education.
The initiative follows a February 2020 decision by the County Board of Supervisors, which approved a three-year pilot program that aims to plant and maintain 1,000 trees each year. Planting began in fall 2020, with more than 1,300 trees now in place across the county, according to Supervisor Susan Ellenberg.
“This partnership really highlights our dual commitments, both to the environment and to education,” Ellenberg said. “It is also about equity—many of the county’s youth don’t have the same access to nature as others. This program focuses on those urban areas to bring in some green space for our next generation of environmental stewards.”
The goal for 2022 is to plant 1,000 trees on and around school campuses.
Education officials say the trees provide a number of learning opportunities for students to grow in interest in the environment and sustainability, while arborists say the benefits of trees are numerous, including capturing carbon from the atmosphere and providing cooled areas.
Marisa Zulaski of Our City Forest said the trees need to be taken care of in order for them to provide those benefits for the long-term.
The trees will be cared for by school groundskeepers with support from county staff from the Office of Sustainability.
“Trees provide more and more benefits exponentially as they age,” Zulaski said. “Everyone who is going to interact with that tree, whether it’s giving it a bucket or water or pruning a dead or dying branch, all of that stewardship goes into the longevity and happiness and healthiness of that tree.”