Mayor-elect Robert Garcia and incoming Councilmember Rex Richardson hosted a tree planting ceremony Saturday, July 12, where over 120 trees were installed along Atlantic Ave in North Long Beach.
As part of a day of service leading up to inauguration night tomorrow, Garcia and over 100 residents from all over the city gathered at Houghton Park near Jordan High School to plant 125 Crape Myrtle trees along Atlantic Avenue and Artesia Boulevard. The event, which was held in the 9th District that Richardson was elected to represent, supplements the Atlantic Avenue Improvement Project that started earlier this year.
“People can actually see the loyalty of Long Beach citizens,” said Anthony Hoeflich, a volunteer on Garcia’s election campaign and volunteer tree-planter. “It just shows that we’re not lagging and we’re committed to making Long Beach a great place.”
As he greeted the large turnout of supporters and eager tree planters, Richardson noted that it was Garcia’s transition team that presented the idea for the event, and that given his efforts to mobilize the neighborhood already, the tree planting ceremony just made sense. Although Richardson won’t be sworn in until Tuesday night, he was already hard at work with gloves and shovel in tow, sweating in the early morning heat with the men, women and children that showed up to the event.
“A community isn’t made up of buildings or incidents of crime or trees,” Richardson said. “A community is made up of people. So, the only way to really change a community is to engage and empower its people. And projects like this are very simple examples of what we need to do to take leadership and take ownership of our own communities. I look forward to doing many, many more projects like this.”
Garcia and Richardson worked as a unit, dropping the trees into holes and throwing shovels of dirt into the ditches as they worked side by side with residents. The mayor-elect said that he’s looking forward to hitting the ground running once he’s sworn into office and is excited to carry out similar events to the tree planting ceremony because it not only beautifies the city but brings it together.
“We are ready on day number one to get to work,” Garcia said. “We’re excited about the future of our city and the future of our city includes all of the city. And I think it’s important for us to remember that no matter where you live, no matter your income level, no matter where you work… All of Long Beach should be viewed equally. That’s really what today is about and I’m excited about it.”
The pink, purple and white Crape Myrtle trees planted will be maintained by the recently created Uptown Property and Community Association which employs youth that will maintain the trees, monitor their staking and keep sidewalks and local businesses in the corridor clean.
Seventeen-year-old Irving Galarza said that in addition to providing area youth with productive activities during the summer, events like the tree planting and the association’s efforts to keep the neighborhood clean can provide the community with added traffic as it becomes a more desirable destination.
“I think they’re really important because we keep the city and the streets clean and it also gets people’s attention and can get them to spend more time here instead of going somewhere else,” Galarza said.
Garcia said that there will be other events like this planned throughout the city during his term in office and that aside from activating the city and uniting the community, beautifying the city benefits the city in multiple ways including making for a safer and aesthetically pleasing landscape.
“Certainly the greenery can make the city look better,” Garcia said. “The great thing about these kind of event is that they don’t only bring people together but they make the street look better. And so I think the more we can beautify our streets and corridors… In the long run, it’s good for communities, it makes them safer. It’s a real win-win so we’ll continue to do events like this.”