The San Joaquin County Urban Tree Canopy Revival (SJCUTCR) project sets Stockton on a trajectory to restore the city’s once proud urban forest by planting over 1200 new trees in Stockton’s disadvantaged communities and maintaining them for the life of the grant to ensure their success.
This project, led by Promotores Unidas para Educacion Nacional de Tecnologias Sostenibles (PUENTES) and funded with Cap-and-Trade dollars, involves a coalition of diverse community interests with a shared mission of reversing decades of canopy loss.
In March 2002, a Sunset Magazine article designated Stockton as the “Best Tree City in the West.” Unfortunately, years of neglect took a devastating toll on the city’s once formidable urban forest canopy. Today, many of the same trees that garnered such acclaim for Stockton have fallen victim to disease and removal for road expansion. Others suffer stress due to increasing temperatures and persistent drought.
The City of Stockton’s precarious financial health constrained tree maintenance and replanting in the city for over a decade, and deterioration of the tree canopy disproportionately occurred in Stockton’s most disadvantaged communities. Outside of the obvious loss of the beauty these trees afforded, the diminishing tree canopy worsens the city’s already unhealthy air quality. The loss tree shade also intensifies the devastating heat island effect, in which the sunlight absorbed by buildings and pavement increases air temperatures in urban environments. The loss of so many trees also increased stormwater runoff into the San Joaquin Delta, polluting waterways and damaging the ecosystem.
For this project, PUENTES worked with the coalition to establish a common vision to achieve a shared goal of a stronger urban forest. These diverse interests include educational institutions, the State’s largest regional recreation facility, local businesses, the industrial and transportation hub at the Port of Stockton, and private real estate development. Together, these entities representing a cross section of Stockton identified several areas of need the SJCUTCR project will address.
PUENTES’ record of success in improving the urban environment in Stockton shows that a broad, multi-organizational approach to reviving Stockton’s tree canopy across many communities has the potential to serve as a model statewide and nationally. By using the award from CAL FIRE’s Urban and Community Forestry Program to plant and maintain 1200 trees, PUENTES is helping Stockton take a step towards a healthier urban forest, reducing GHG emissions by over 3,000 MTCO2e and providing numerous other co-benefits.