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Environmental group gets grant to plant trees in Baldwin Hills

BALDWIN HILLS — North East Trees is a community-based nonprofit whose mission statement is to “bring nature back to our urban environment.”

The group has planted thousands of trees in the Baldwin Hills/Baldwin Village area over the last 10 years, using a $1 million grant from the state through a program called, “Cal Fire” to plant more than 3,500 trees in Baldwin Hills to assist with the energy conservation and beautification of the area.

Aaron Thomas, the urban forestry manager for North East Trees, says that the Baldwin Hills area has a lot of environmental issues including bad air quality.

“The California Environmental Protection Agency created a map for the state of California and color coded every part of the state and color coded the environmental challenges like air quality and other issues that exist,” Thomas said.

The goal is to increase and improve air quality in the Baldwin Hills and surrounding areas. The plan for North East Trees is to plant 500 new street trees between the sidewalks and streets, facilitate 1,000 private, residential trees that will be planted in resident’s yards, and plant 2,000 new native oak seagreen baby trees that will be placed in the natural open spaces around the area, which will include Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, potentially the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, the Stocker Corridor, and potentially on La Brea Avenue.

Thomas and his team are currently working on authorizations to do those plantings and are working with the county Department of Parks and Recreation to ensure they can make it happen. The project is slated for completion by next year.

North East Trees is partnering with a group based in Baldwin Hills called the Community Health Councils, another nonprofit that promotes health equity and the well-being of the community.

North East Trees chose Community Health Councils as a partner to help with community outreach and educational engagement.

“I know their founder who unfortunately passed away a few years ago was very active in greening, which is part of public health, so tree planting has been found to have very significant impacts on improving public health, respiratory disease and a whole range of other issues improved through natural greening; we got together to do this grant and working together on implementing it,” Thomas said.

North East Trees encourages the community to get involved as well. There will be events taking place at the Baldwin Hill Crenshaw Plaza as well as setting up a booth at the farmer’s market, which takes place outside of the mall, where North East Trees will give away trees as well as host workshops so the community can come learn to plant trees, if they are interested.

Mark Kenyon, the executive director of North East Trees, says the group will hire and train local at-risk youth to help. Los Angeles residents will receive trees through the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

“So you have to be a LA DWP customer and so we want to put the word out that there are going to be trees available to start the process of getting people to sign up for those trees and we’ll get them delivered or provide it as the project starts to roll out,” Kenyon said.

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