Arbor Day (April 27) is a nationally celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care.
The city of Ventura has a fascinating tree history. After the Mission San Buenaventura was founded in 1782, the Franciscan missionaries planted the first orchard in what was a generally treeless area. The good soil, excellent climate and year-round water from the Ventura River contributed to abundant crops of apples, pears, peaches, pomegranates, bananas, coconuts and figs.
One of the oldest trees in town is a designated historic landmark. The Moreton Bay fig tree in downtown’s Plaza Park was planted in 1874 and, with a span of 150 feet, is one of the largest of its species. At 138 years of age, it is older than most of our buildings.
The two great Norfolk Island pines next to the Mission are estimated to be well over 100 years old. They reputedly were planted by a sailing captain in the hope that they would eventually provide a supply of ship masts.
Over the next century, other species were introduced to Ventura, notably palms, eucalyptus and citrus. In 1898, 13 big blue gum eucalyptus saplings were planted on a hilltop above Ventura. Over time, 11 were lost to vandalism, fire and disease. But Two Trees remain there today, a much-loved symbol of our city.
In 1922, several tall palm trees near the Mission were the inspiration for the name and logo of Las Palmas brand enchilada sauce, created by a talented Ventura cook named Rosa Ramirez. You’ll still see the Las Palmas label with distinctive Ventura palms on store shelves worldwide.
Thousands of acres of fertile land east of Seaward Avenue flourished with walnut, citrus and avocado orchards for most of the 20th century, growing Ventura’s economy and enhancing the postcard-perfect landscape.
Today, hundreds of different species of trees can be found in the city’s parks and along our streets — our “urban forest.” Ventura’s moderate coastal climate allows many different tree species from various regions to be grown.
Ventura’s urban forest of more than 30,000 trees is one of the most vital pieces of our city’s infrastructure, providing numerous benefits for our residents. Tree-lined streets retain large volumes of rainfall, reducing and cleansing runoff. They also increase property values, encourage shopping and business, reduce air pollution, calm traffic and lower noise levels. And trees reduce erosion and stabilize our hilly terrain.
This Friday, fourth- and fifth-grade students at Juanamaria Elementary school will have the opportunity to plant trees at a city-sponsored event from 9 to 10 a.m.
You, too, can help us celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree in your own yard, a living and lasting gift to our community. You may also request a street tree for your neighborhood, supplied by the city of Ventura, as the budget allows. Please call the City of Ventura Parks Department at 652-4550 and our urban forestry staff will be happy to talk with you about recommended species and will schedule a planting.
To see an interactive website that visually illustrates the benefits of trees, go to www.arborday.org/trees/stormwater.cfm.
Christy Weir is a Ventura City Council member.