Benicia High School Tree Planting Project


Eighty Trees Planted at Benicia High School as a Result of Collaboration

Between the Benicia Unified School District, Benicia Tree Foundation, and the CA Native Plant Society

The Benicia Tree Foundation (BTF) has partnered with the Benicia Unified School District (BUSD) to garner a grant from California ReLeaf to plant 80 trees at Benicia High School (BHS). The project will be implemented in three phases, with the first volunteer based event taking place on Saturday, February 26, 2011, from 9am to noon. The planting will be carried out at the corner of Military West and Denfield Avenue, at the base of the BHS athletic fields. The local Willis Linn Jepson Chapter of the California Native Plant Society is also supporting the project.

Janice Adams, BUSD Superintendent, remarks that “The campus tree planting project involves planting 80 trees in front of the BHS athletic fields, establishing a windrow that will protect one third of the campus currently unprotected by trees. The tree plantings are designed to provide maximum educational as well as environmental benefits. The tree plantings will provide opportunities for engaging students in curriculum that involves issues such as global warming and energy consumption, allowing students and teachers to take action through applied scientific learning methods. The project will include demonstrations of urban forestry and ecology, and emphasize the impacts of sustainable landscape design.” Planting trees on school sites adjacent to high-traffic corridors helps to reduce the impact of pollution on students (referred to by researchers as “sensitive receptors”) and teachers. Trees, when planted in sufficient quantities, also have the ability to mitigate roadway noise and improve the visual aesthetics school campuses. The BTF Board of Directors, comprised of Benicia residents and volunteers, is hopeful that the positive impacts of the campus tree plantings will be analyzed and replicated throughout the BUSD.

Wolfram Alderson, Executive Director of the BTF, states that “Unfortunately, due to age, disease, and other factors, the tree population has been dwindling on the BHS campus and throughout the BUSD. Students, teachers, and administrators desire an improved tree canopy on campuses in the school district. Like several of Benicia’s schools, the BHS campus is now surrounded by asphalt parking, turf fields, traffic corridors, and barren hills sparsely planted with trees. The athletic fields, lacking any protection from the wind or shade from the sun, require excessive irrigation, and sports events can subject participants to extremes of full-sun heat to bone-chilling winds. The planting site will be heavily mulched, providing an ecological solution for improving the soil that minimizes irrigation needs and reduces erosion. Trees filter pollutants, nutrients, sediments, and pesticides while absorbing water runoff. A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Urban Forest Research indicates that a medium-sized tree can intercept 2,380 gallons of rain per year.”

Several of Benicia’s schools are located adjacent to the 780 freeway, and are impacted by the exhaust from the estimated 58,000 cars per day that pass through the center of Benicia. Furthermore, Benicia also happens to be centered in a triad of three of California’s largest refineries. Benicia has the fourth highest ozone rate in Bay Area.

Student leaders at BHS have a role on the Community Sustainability Commission of Benicia. Benicia’s Climate Action Plan is at the forefront of efforts in Solano County. Key goals in the Benicia Climate Action Plan include increasing the number of trees in the community and the use of drought tolerant landscaping. Currently, BHS trees provide shade and protection from constant winds blowing in from the Carquinez Straits. Giant Redwoods now provide an effective windrow in front of the school entrance, providing a majestic face to the campus, and large Mulberry trees are among an assortment of other tree species provide shade and a distinct sense of place in the center courtyard of the school. Students naturally gravitate to and cluster under these trees that are a beloved part of the campus landscape, according to Teresa Finn, BHS Teacher and Advisor to the BHS Eco-Club. "BHS is fortunate to be the focus of this collaboration.  Trees really do do a student body good!  I look forward to watching these trees grow to the size of the trees in the main quad, a place of grace on our busy campus,” Finn remarks.

Gene Doherty, President of the Willis Linn Jepson Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, comments that “non-native and invasive plants now make up the majority of the plant species we see around Benicia. We are very pleased that this project is focused on planting trees native to California. This project increases habitat havens for wildlife and is the final local activity of California’s first annual Native Plant Week which recognizes the role native plants play in sustaining biodiversity. We look forward to working with everyone to successfully complete this and other future projects.”

Volunteers are encouraged to come dressed ready to get dirty, and bring gloves, a hat and drinking water.  The BTF encourages volunteers to bring tools and also encourages donations of shovels, rakes, hole diggers, hoes, and other garden implements.  The BTF was established in 2010 and received its initial funding from the Valero Good Neighbors / VIP Settlement. Volunteers can sign up in advance for the project at or email for more information. All participants will be required to sign a waiver & release of liability. Minors also require a signature of a parent or guardian.

This event is one of three events planned to implement the Benicia High School Tree Planting Project:

  1. Site Clean Up and Prep / February 26, 2011: Saturday, from 9 AM to Noon
  2. Irrigation System Installation / March 26, 2011: Saturday, from 9 AM to Noon
  3. Tree Planting & Mulching / April 23, 2011: Saturday, from 9 AM to Noon

BHS is located at 1101 Military West, Benicia, CA 94510 / Project at corner of Military West & Denfield Avenue.

Progress Reports

February 26, 2011 Event

1)      How did the first tree planting event go?

Our event went well. The event was focused on preparing the site for tree planting that will occur in April. There are at least two more events that will be held that will be open to the public.

2)      Was everything accomplished that needed to be?

Yes. Volunteers cleaned up a truckload trash, rocks, and weeds. Volunteers also staked off where the existing irrigation is and also staked off the locations where the trees will be planted.

3)      Was there a good turn-out of volunteers?

Thirteen volunteers showed up, including Benicia’s Mayor, Elizabeth Patterson, Scott Osterholt, BHS Teacher, Board members of the Benicia Tree Foundation, and other “die-hard” volunteers  with a long history of involvement in environmental causes in Benicia.

Coincidentally, there was also a group of BHS students working on the other side of campus with Lisa Burton, a community volunteer who is leading an effort to plant native tree seedlings. You can email Lisa can tell you more about that project.

4)      Are we still looking for more volunteers?

Of course, we would like to see more BHS students involved in our next two events, especially the big tree planting event in April. In the interim, additional times for students to be involved during or after school during the week, can be arranged. The entire area that will be planted needs to be mulched, and it would be desirable for this to happen as soon as possible.

5)      When are the next volunteer opportunities?

This event was the first of three events planned to implement the Benicia High School Tree Planting Project:

  1. Site Clean Up and Prep / February 26, 2011: Saturday, from 9 AM to Noon
  2. Irrigation System Installation / March 26, 2011: Saturday, from 9 AM to Noon
  3. Tree Planting & Mulching / April 23, 2011: Saturday, from 9 AM to Noon

6)      Whose idea was it to originally apply for the grant to pay for the trees?

The Benicia Tree Foundation took the initiative on this effort. We were inspired and encouraged to do so by the efforts of BHS teachers Teresa Finn, Melanie Voss, Joshua Bradley, Scott Osterholt and the Eco-Club, Garden Club, and Green Academy. Janice Adams, BUSD Superintendent, has been an enthusiastic supporter, and was among those who signed a letter of support for the project.

7)      How much is the grant?

The grant is from California ReLeaf for the amount of $5,285. The Benicia Tree Foundation provided matching funds, derived in part from the Valero Good Neighbor Steering Committee Settlement Agreement.

8)      Will there be other trees planted at Benicia schools or just BHS?

We hope so. This project is the first in a new partnership with the BUSD. The Native Plant Society and Benicia Community Gardens has also joined the partnership, so there is definitely momentum growing. The real key is student involvement!

9)      What types of trees are being planted?

Tree Qtys.


Size of Specimen


Calocedrus decurrens (Incense Cedar)

15 gals


Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak)15 gals


Cedrus deodora (Deodar Cedar)

15 gals



The tree list is subject to change. 

10)  Didn't there at one time used to be trees along the same area from a Boy Scout eagle project?

There are some Redwoods remaining that we will preserve. The work that was done by this student was an inspiration for the project. The seed of his efforts is growing strong.

11)  Do you know what happened to those trees?

Several have died, probably due to faulty irrigation. Redwoods require irrigation during the years they become established. The majority of trees on our list will not require irrigation after the third year.

12)  Why will these trees be beneficial to BHS?

This question is answered in many ways in our news release and letter of support from BUSD students, faculty, and administrators.

Look at the glorious trees in front of the school and in the central courtyard. Think of how barren the campus would be without them. We can give thanks to those visionaries who, decades ago, thought of planting trees that would provide so many benefits to the students and faculty. Walking around Benicia, you will find it challenging to find an area where birds are singing as strongly as those that are in the Mulberry trees in the BHS courtyard…it is like a wild chorus.

Canaries were once used in coal mining as an early warning system. Toxic gases such as carbon monoxide in the mine would kill the birds before affecting the miners. When we plant trees, we create habitat for birds and forms of wildlife, inviting nature to come in a little closer to our built environment. The presence and effect of bird song on humans is a subject of recent research.  Today, the presence of birds and the trees they inhabit are modern day indicators of environmental health (or hazards). BHS is located next to a freeway travelled by 58,000 cars per day. Several refineries in the area contribute to the fact that Benicia has the fourth highest levels of ground level ozone in the Bay Area. Each tree we plant helps us mitigate these conditions, and invites the birds to sing where we live and learn.

Wolfram Alderson

Executive Director, Benicia Tree Foundation

Letter of Support - BHS - BUSD - BTF.pdf3.77 MB
BHS TREE PLANTING FLYER January 14 2012 Oats V1.pdf88.63 KB