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Canopy Celebrates 16th Mayor's Tree Planting

New mayor Yiaway Yeh took part in a symbolic tree-planting and community members were recognized for their efforts in an awards ceremony.

Make no mistake: Palo Altans take their trees seriously. Despite the blustery, rainy weather, some 80 people arrived at Thursday night for  16th annual Mayor's Tree Planting and awards ceremony.

"It's a way to first of all welcome the mayor and make sure he's aware of the importance of the urban canopy," said Canopy board chair Susan Ellis. "It's one-year term so we catch him early!" she said, referring to  who was just elected into office.

Although the evening planting was symbolic -- the tree had actually been planted in the afternoon--  Yeh, a Gunn alum, recalled the time when he really planted his first tree, also an oak. That tree grows in the Stanford foothills, and Yeh was in seventh grade when he planted it with Magic, Inc.

"Tree planting is what introduced me to community service," he said. "Now that it's an oak again, it really means a lot." 

Along with Yeh, assemblyman (D-Menlo Park), Santa Clara County supervisor , and PAUSD board president , city manager Jim Keene, and city councilmember Karen Holman attended the event.

Canopy began in 1996 by the Palo Alto city council, said Kniss, and later evolved into a non-profit. Notably, the group planted 1200 trees in East Palo Alto between 2006 and 2008, far exceeding their goal of a thousand trees in four years.  

The tree planted at Gunn was a Valley Oak, a California-native tree that does well in this area, said Elliott Wright, development and communications director for Canopy. The oak can handle drought, provides copious amounts of shade, fresh air, is aesthetically pleasing, and climate ready, meaning it can survive fluctuating temperatures and water access, he said.

Canopy's most recent planting was on , when the group planted 49 trees at the 49ers Academy. The group plans to plant trees this year at  in Palo Alto, Brentwood Academy and Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto, and Belle Haven Elementary School in Menlo Park, said Canopy executive director Catherine Martineau.

The new tree was planted in front of the drop-off zone next to a Coast Live Oak, a heritage tree over a hundred years old.

"It's one of the biggest Coast Lives I've ever seen," Wright said. "It's an honor to plant the next generation right next to it."

After Yeh had thrown the ceremonial soil, guests filtered into the library for an awards ceremony that recognized community groups and members who had been particularly involved with tree planting. The awards were given in honor of Arnold Soforenko, who initially served as treasurer for Canopy.

"Arnold was a very wonderful community volunteer and initiator...and this is what's happened all these years later," said Kniss. 

The awards recipients were as follows:

The group Arboreal, for preserving mature trees while the 

Dave Muffly, who has been on the Canopy board of directors for six years and was integral to the East Palo Alto Tree Initiative plantings.

Joe Vavuris, for supporting tree planting efforts at Green Oaks Academy and Cesar Chavez Academy.

Barb Mackraz, a volunteer who led the Barron Park Neighborhood Tree Planting.

Marian Cortesi, for outstanding editing and upkeep of the Canopy website.

Jeff Langston, for creating a project management tool for use in preparing plantings.

Daniel Noriega-Diaz, for exceptional performance on the Canopy Youth Staff.

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