Volunteers restore beauty 

Earth Day cleanup effort clears area of trash


Cody Casares / The Advocate

Kinesiology Major Andrew Lilly (left), health and human services major Shelby Wichner and Pinole resident Allen Pablo shovel gravel into wheelbarrows to spread across the lot to deter weed growth and beatify the area during the Youth Service Day on the Richmond Greenway event at South 42 St & Ohio Ave on Saturday.

By Cody Casares, Photo Editor

RICHMOND — To honor Earth Day, community members gathered to collectively beautify a park and pathway along the Richmond Greenway at South 42nd Street and Ohio Avenue on Saturday as a part of the Adopt-a-Spot program through Richmond’s Parks and Landscaping department.

Groundwork Richmond Deputy Director Matt Holmes said, “(Parks and the Richmond Greenway) became a place for contractors to throw away garbage.”

Groundwork Richmond Green Team attracted volunteers from Contra Costa College’s Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society, Middle College High School (housed here at CCC), Kennedy High School, members of EarthTeam — a nonprofit organization from Berkeley — and a group of volunteers from San Francisco State.

“(The Earth Day event) was great. It’s very fulfilling to see that you’ve done some physical work for the future,” ASU Senator Francis Sanson said. “The plan for the area is to make it a park for the neighborhood kids with a butterfly garden.”

Volunteers were split up into several teams to clean different areas of garbage or overgrown foliage.

One team spread bark along the outlet park to deter unwanted weeds from consuming the area.

Another team patrolled the Richmond Greenway and picked up enough trash to fill a dumpster, Holmes said.

Trees were planted and a fence bordering the park was fitted with panels of wood to serve as a canvas for artists from the Richmond Arts Center to create a mural in the near future.

“We tasked ourselves with restoring the forgotten part of the Greenway,” Holmes said. “We are giving people an attractive transportation trail.

“We planted six or seven red maples as part of the Urban Forestry Program, that is trying to address a high death rate of trees that was identified in a Richmond tree survey a few years ago,” he said.

Holmes said the program strives to teach at-risk youth about the work in maintaining parks and community action first hand.

He said Groundwork Richmond also gives youth the opportunity to visit national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite.

“The Green Team is a high school pre-employment training program where we orient people about what it is like to go to work,” he said. “I get to send people who live here, but have never even seen the ocean, to Yellowstone.”

El Cerrito High School student Aktar Zaman, who participated in the event, said, “I have always enjoyed helping people. I like to use my time helping my community. If we can help each other out, the world gets better.”

According to www.arborday.org, planting trees can have many effects on communities and its people by increasing property value as much as 20 percent, improving air quality, and  even lowering stress levels indicated by blood pressure levels and muscle tension.

Holmes said Groundwork Richmond plans to plant 750 trees this year in about 12,000 potential planting areas in Richmond.

“Vacancies, or holes, in rich areas would already have trees in them,” Holmes said.

“Poor neighborhoods have fewer trees,” he said. “In rich areas trees are seen as commodities and in poor areas they are seen as maintenance items.”

He said that the culture of parks is changing from them being thought of as special to rural areas, to a place where people can go in their own urban neighborhoods.

“The whole idea that you can only go to Yosemite or Yellowstone for your nature isn’t true. You can do that right here at Alvarado Park. If our work is meaningful, and we’re passing on parks like Yosemite or local parks in Richmond, they need to be accessible to all.”

The Green Team also aims to make long term changes with members moving on and obtaining jobs within parks departments and civil work groups, Holmes said.

“Working in California you’re working with a diverse group,” he said, “A lot of agencies in the conservation movement don’t have a workforce that reflects the nation. They don’t have the diversity to respond to the challenges of the upcoming decades.”