Community Planning Partnerships

The University of California, Irvine (UCI) Shadetree Nursery program is a long-term community partnership that provides shade trees and support for community tree planting projects throughout southern California. The nursery was founded through a three-way partnership among the UCI the Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD), and the non-profit Shadetree Partnership. This partnership is in its 19th year of service to the community, and the program continues to grow and flourish with more than 30,000 shade trees provided through volunteer tree planting projects. Trees are cultivated and maintained in the nursery through volunteer effort and the trees and planting support (tools, staff support, volunteer training and education) are provided at no cost for community volunteer tree planting projects.

Partnership Description and Accomplishments

students planting treesThe UCI Shadetree Nursery program was established in 1996 by UCI, IRWD, and Shadetree, based on a common interest in sustainable urban forestry and community-based tree planting programs. At the time UCI had established a campuswide urban forestry initiative called the “Green and Gold Plan” that focused on sustainable landscaping and native tree planting. IRWD, the water agency serving UCI and the surrounding region, is a national leader in progressive water resource management programs and had established a strong community education and outreach program in sustainable landscaping. Shadetree was a recently established non-profit organization supported by IRWD with a mission of providing trees and tree planting support for volunteer tree planting initiatives in the region. While all three entities had well-conceived urban forestry initiatives, they lacked a physical facility and a steady supply of affordable native trees to support these programs. The UCI Shadetree Nursery met this key need for all three partners by providing the land area and base of operations for the program allowing access to an affordable supply of shade trees to support tree planting programs. The nursery initiative allowed the three partners to work together toward their common goals, significantly expanding the opportunities that the three could provide individually.

The nursery is located on a 3-acre site on the UCI campus through a land lease from the university to IRWD. As stated in the ground lease, payment for use of the parcel is 300 trees per year that the university uses for on-campus volunteer tree planting projects. The three parties jointly provide management and oversight of the nursery with campus and community volunteers responsible for many of the operations including planting seedlings and maintaining the nursery stock until they reach planting size (generally 15 gallons).

students planting treesThe success of the Shadetree Nursery is the result of sustained volunteer efforts since its inception Shadetree volunteer efforts at the nursery and in the community have included many on-campus groups including fraternities and sororities, service clubs, housing communities, and academic classes. Off-campus volunteers have included local schools, service clubs, the Boy Scouts, and community colleges.

The accomplishments of the Shadetree Partnership have been significant. The program supports several volunteer tree planting projects each year, resulting in the planting of over 30,700 trees over the past 19 years. The Nursery contains thousands of plants at any given time, ranging from seedlings to full size nursery stock. While the emphasis is on native shade trees, the nursery also contains significant stock of other drought tolerant shade tree species and native shrubs and groundcovers for volunteer habitat restoration projects.

The partnership is in its 19th year and continues to grow. UC Irvine and IRWD are long-term fixtures in the community and are firmly committed to the Shadetree Nursery Program. Examples of the enduring nature of the program include multiple volunteer planting events each year. The initial volunteer tree planting project at UC Irvine occurred in 1996 and resulted in the planting of 120 native oak trees by campus volunteers. These efforts have continued through tree planting events each year, including multiple on-campus and off-campus events in 2014.

Volunteer Tree Planting Program

students planting treesAt the heart of the Shadetree Partnership’s mission is the support for local volunteer tree planting programs. This includes an active volunteer tree planting initiative on the UCI campus that has involved many campus and community volunteers throughout the nearly 20-year history of the program. Each year the campus hosts one or more tree planting events where students and other campus volunteers work collaboratively to plant trees (averaging 100-200 trees per event). Most UCI tree planting events include speakers or demonstrations on urban forestry, native plants, or proper tree planting practices.

In addition to UCI on-campus tree planting events, Shadetree supports tree planting initiatives in other public spaces throughout the community including public parks and schools. Shadetree support includes providing trees, tools, logistical support, and education needed for successful tree planting.