First Annual Arbor Day draws people of all ages to honor the trees of Laguna and plant a new one


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

On Wednesday afternoon, Jahraus Park was packed with tree loving people of all ages (and maybe some tree hugging people as well). A much larger crowd than anticipated by the organizers, I’m sure, turned out for this incredible celebration put together in only a month by Shohreh Dupuis, Assistant City Manager and Director of Public Works, and Ruben Flores of Laguna Beach Urban Tree Fund and Laguna Nursery. 

Arbor Day, which was started by J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska City in 1872, is an annual observance that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care. Although this is Laguna’s First Arbor Day Observance, it allows the City to apply to The Arbor Foundation to be designated a Tree City USA.

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Hard at work

Fun was had by all. Adults enjoyed the music of The South Laguna Garden Band and the artistic vocals of April Walsh, as they strolled among the booths from Laguna Beach Urban Tree Fund, Laguna Nursery, South Laguna Community Garden/South Laguna Civic Association, Laguna Canyon Foundation, LOCA Arts Education, Laguna Garden Club, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, and Crystal Cove Conservancy. Other supporters included Nature Conservancy, Canyon Alliance of Neighborhood Defense Organization, Friends of Hortense Miller, Boys and Girls Club, and Bluebird Farms. 

Flores passed around tangerines and almonds and booths gave away items such as aloe, rosemary, and seed packets. Attendees planted succulents in little pots. Kids had their faces painted, and worked on crafts at several tables while munching on cookies. Dogs greeted each other excitedly (they like trees too).

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Girl works on project

This wonderful event also included comments from Masters of Ceremony and Community speakers.

Mayor Pro Tem Rob Zur Schmiede thanked all the supporters for their hard work as well as residents Barbara and Greg MacGillivray for their generous $50,000 donation to the Urban Tree Fund. He acknowledged West Coast Arborists for the donation of the Torrey Pine tree to be planted at the park. 

Councilmember Toni Iseman noted an interesting member of her “family tree,” her grandfather and his connection to J. Sterling Morton. Her father is from Nebraska City and her grandfather was a contemporary of Morton. 

Councilmember Rob Whalen also recognized supporters and organizers for bringing the idea of Arbor Day to fruition.

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Back row (l-r) Rob Zur Schmiede, Toni Iseman, Robert Whalen

Front: Kids from Boys and Girls Club of LB

Several other members of the community spoke on the importance of trees in our community. 

Flores said, “Look up, instead of at your phone.” 

Executive Director of The Laguna Canyon Foundation, Hallie Jones, stressed the importance of replacements for the trees that have died due to beetles and drought.

Because of the historic nature of the trees in Canyon Acres, Penny Milne of the Canyon Alliance of Neighborhoods Defense Organization, spoke of their trees as neighbors.

All agreed that no place has trees like Laguna.

The star of the show was the new Torrey Pine (the one pine that’s native).

With gold shovels, members of the Boys and Girls Club and City Leaders filled the hole around the tree with dirt, and the Torrey Pine will now be part of the beautiful landscape of Jahraus Park for passersby to appreciate.

Advice from a Tree: Remember your roots, and enjoy the view!

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