Friends of El Cerrito Trees

"Promoting an environmentally friendly, beautiful and green El Cerrito"

About Us


How To Join



Plant A Tree



Letters & Articles

Contact Us


FRIENDS of EL CERRITO TREES is an all volunteer community-based group of citizens who are interested in the protection, preservation, proper maintenance, and planting of trees in El Cerrito's public parks, along its streets, and on private property. Our members are also concerned with related issues of conservation of vegetation and stewardship of natural resources for the health and well-being of our communities and environment. Currently, our group represents several hundred citizens of El Cerrito with many more like-minded folks from neighboring communities who share our goals to help El Cerrito become a beautiful, green place. After all, we only have one planet!

Friends of El Cerrito Trees is a Formal Partner of the California Urban Forests Council , Member of the California ReLEAF Network , and a City of El Cerrito sponsored Community Group.

* * All people who share these interests who live in El Cerrito and neighboring communities are welcome to join Friends of El Cerrito Trees. * *


View Ordinance- Please see the View Ordinance the City Council voted for on June 21, 2004.

Send your letters and/or e-mail to:
El Cerrito City Council- El Cerrito City Hall
10940 San Pablo Avenue El Cerrito, CA 94530

Email for El Cerrito City Council is:
Bill Jones:
Janet Abelson:
Letitia Moore:
Sandi Potter:
Jan Bridges:



The Friends have been working on developing an Urban Forest Plan for El Cerrito. The plan would create a infrastructure for dealing with trees at all levels throughout the city. There would be money in the city's budget for annual tree planting, proper maintenance including regular water and mulch, tree preservation acts, planting the right tree in the right place, education, etc.. Our group has a Powerpoint Presentation called "Trees in Our City" that Deborah DiFruscia (Communications Manager) gave at the El Cerrito Park & Recreation Commission, El Cerrito City Council, El Cerrito Tree Commission and was Endorsed by the El Cerrito Green Party. If you want to see more trees planted and properly cared for in the city, please use the contact us link to sign our petition. Thank you!



If you have a potted tree you want to give away to a caring neigbor, or you would like a free potted tree to plant on private property, please contact us.



We need YOUR help!

NORTH EL CERRITO- Our group planted approximately 15 trees in Tassajara Park (corner of Tassajara & Barrett Avenue) last spring. We need volunteers to help water the trees through the summer season. This is a great job for families and students out for summer break to engage in. These trees also need more mulch (free from the EC Recycing Center) to keep them healthy and retain water. Please contact us if you can help. Thank you.

SOUTH EL CERRITO- Our group has adopted approximately 15 trees on the west side of Colusa (in the 400 block) just above El Cerrito High School's playing field. We need volunteers to help water the trees through the summer season. This is a great job for families and students out for summer break to engage in. These trees also need more mulch (free from the EC Recycing Center) to keep them healthy and retain water. Please contact us if you can help. Thank you.



If you would like to plant a Street Tree in the city parking strip in front of your home, please see the City of El Cerrito's Approved Master Street Tree List. There is also information there on How to Plant a Tree and how to care for trees under Young Tree Care Guide. Thanks & happy planting to you!

* * * Great NEW Use for your OLD 5 Gallon RECYCLING Buckets - these are PERFECT for watering young trees in warmer months, young trees need 5 gallons of water 3 times per week. For more WATERING info see our Plant a Tree Link * * *

Friends of El Cerrito Trees is happy to announce that our Tree Planting Parties on Richmond Street & Tassajara Park were a HUGE Success!! An article was published in the El Cerrito Journal regarding our tree planting. To read it, see Letters & Articles . A BIG THANK YOU to all who volunteered, planted trees, and helped to make both days run smoothly!! We are especially grateful to the City of El Cerrito's Maintenance Department for all of their support. A Very SPECIAL THANK YOU to Arborist Steve Batchelder and Peter Rudy for donating their time helping to train volunteers on tree planting! We planted approximately 35 trees in the parking strips along Richmond Street (between Stockton to Potrero), plus another 15 trees at Tassajara Park. The residents who requested a tree on Richmond Street have adopted those trees and will take responsibility for watering and mulching them for the next few years. The City of El Cerrito will take responsibility for pruning the trees when needed.

Both projects were funded through a $2,500 grant our group received from California ReLEAF (see Tree Grants below). Please contact us if you would like to join our group. Thanks to all who joined the fun and helped beautify El Cerrito!



GOOD NEWS!! The Friends of El Cerrito Trees was awarded another grant by California ReLEAF! We used these funds for educational outreach.

In the Spring of 2003, The Friends of El Cerrito Trees received a grant from California ReLEAF for a tree-planting project! The grant was for $2,500. We planted 50 trees on Richmond Street and in a local park in El Cerrito with this small amount of money! Thank you to all the volunteers who helped make this such a successful project!

The City of El Cerrito has not received a grant for street tree planting for more than fifteen years. That is why it is important to advocate for an Urban Forest Plan which would put money in the budget to plant trees annually. That way, we will have trees in the future. Join us and learn more! Everyone is welcome and it's free!



At our October 2002 meeting, we decided to start a Friends of El CerritoTrees Great Tree Award. This award is given to El Cerrito citizens who have cared for beautiful trees on their property. These trees help enhance and beautify our city and provide habit and environmental benefits to the whole community. Our first Award went to a private residence in El Cerrito. We are planning to have additional tree awards for commercial businesses in the future. We hope the awards will encourage and educate others about the importance of trees in our community. If you think you or your business has a winning tree, contact us.



Friends of El Cerrito Trees is looking for donations of healthy trees to plant on city streets and public parks or to offer to those who want to plant them in their yards. If you have a tree you would like to donate or know of a donor, please contact us.



Many members of Friends of El Cerrito Trees are very concerned about the pruning practices used on city street trees. The City of El Cerrito contracts street tree pruning out to a private contracting service. Unfortunately, its employees often have little or no training and end up doing more harm than good. They routinely over prune trees which can cause them to become unstable and suseptible to disease eventually rendering them hazardous or dead (see Don't Top Trees below). The City of El Cerrito currently prunes street trees by rotation every three years. If you are concerned with the pruning methods employed by the City of El Cerrito please contact us. Friends of El Cerrito Trees would like to see a responsible company with an arborist prune our trees. The City of El Cerrito does not employ an arborist despite the need. Trees are an investment in our future. We need to take better care of the trees we have, especially since the city does NOT invest in new plantings. The money in the city budget (approximately one hundred thousand dollars annually) pays for pruning and removals only. We need an Urban Forest Plan to plant trees annually and prune on an as need basis annually, being careful not to remove more than 5-10% of the tree when we prune. This is vital to the health of our trees. We must protect our investment for the future generations.

Don't Top Trees!!! (from the Urban Tree Foundation)

Topping is perhaps the most harmful tree pruning practice known. Yet despite more than 25 years of literature and seminars explaining its harmful effects, topping remains a common practice. Below explains why topping is not an acceptable pruning technique and offers some better alternatives.
What Is Topping? Topping is the indiscriminate cutting back of tree branches to stubs or lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal role. Other names for topping include "heading", "tipping", "hat-racking", and "rounding over". The most common reason given for topping is to reduce the size of a tree. Often homeowners feel that their trees have become too large for their property. People fear that tall trees may pose a hazard. Topping, however, is not a viable method of height reduction, and certainly does not reduce the hazard. In fact, topping will make a tree more hazardous in the long term.

Topping Stresses Trees Topping often removes 50-100% of the leaf-bearing crown of a tree. Since the leaves are the "food factories" of a tree, this can temporarily "starve" a tree. The severity of the pruning triggers a sort of survival mechanism. The tree activates latent buds, forcing the rapid growth of multiple shoots below each cut. The tree needs to put out a new crop of leaves as soon as possible. If a tree does not have the stored energy reserves to do this, it will be seriously weakened and may die. A stressed tree is more vulnerable to insect and disease infestations. Large, open pruning wounds expose the sapwood and heartwood to attack. The tree may lack sufficient energy to chemically "defend" the wounds against invasion. Some insects are actually attracted to stressed trees by chemical signals.

Topping Causes Decay The preferred location to make a pruning cut is just beyond the branch collar at the branch's point of attachment. The tree is biologically equipped to close such a wound provided the tree is healthy enough and the wound is not too large. Cuts made along a limb, between lateral branches, create stubs with wounds that the tree may not be able to close. The exposed wood tissues begin to decay. Normally a tree will "wall off" or compartmentalize the decaying tissues. But few trees can defend the multiple severe wounds caused by topping. The decay organisms are given a free path to move down through the branches.

Topping Creates Hazards The survival mechanism that causes a tree to produce multiple shoots below each topping cut comes at great expense to the tree. These shoots develop from buds near the surface of the old branches. Unlike normal branches that develop in a "socket" of overlapping wood tissues, these new shoots are only anchored in the outermost layers of the parent branches. The new shoots grow very quickly, as much as 20 feet in one year, in some species. Unfortunately, the shoots are very prone to breaking, especially during windy conditions. The irony is that while the goal was to reduce the tree's height to make it safer, it has been made more hazardous than before.

Topping Makes Trees Ugly The natural branching structure of a tree is a biological wonder. Trees form a variety of shapes and growth habits, all with the same goal of presenting their leaves to the sun. Topping removes the ends of the branches, often leaving ugly stubs. Topping destroys the natural form of a tree. Without the leaves (up to six months of the year in temperate climates) a topped tree appears disfigured and mutilated. With the leaves, it is a dense ball of foliage, lacking its simple grace. A tree that has been topped can never fully regain its natural form.

Topping Is Expensive The cost of topping a tree is not limited to what the perpetrator is paid. If the tree survives, it will require pruning again within a few years. It will either need to be reduced again, or storm damage will have to be cleaned up. If the tree dies it will have to be removed. Topping is a high maintenance pruning practice. There are some hidden costs of topping. One is the reduction in property value. Healthy, well maintained trees can add 10-20% to the value of a property. Disfigured, topped trees are considered an impending expense. Another potential cost of topped trees is the potential liability. Topped trees are prone to breaking and can be hazardous. Since topping is considered to be an unacceptable pruning practice, any damage caused by branch failure of a topped tree may lead to a finding of negligence in a court of law.

Alternatives To Topping There are times when a tree must be reduced in height or spread. Providing clearance for utility lines is an example. There are recommended techniques for doing this. If practical, branches should be removed back to their point of origin. If a branch must be shortened, it should be cut back to a lateral that is large enough to assume the terminal role. A rule of thumb for this is to cut back to a lateral that is at least 1/3 the diameter of the limb being removed. This method of branch reduction helps to preserve the natural form of the tree. However, if large cuts are involved, the tree may not be able to close over and compartmentalize the wounds.

Hiring An Arborist Pruning large trees can be dangerous. If pruning involves working above the ground, or using power equipment, it is best to hire a professional arborist. An arborist can determine what type of pruning is necessary to improve the health, appearance and safety of your trees. A professional arborist can provide the services of a trained crew, with all of the required safety equipment and liability insurance. There are a variety of things to consider when selecting an arborist: Membership in professional organizations such the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the National Arborist Association (NAA) or the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA) Certification through the ISA Certified Arborist program Proof of insurance A list of references (Don't hesitate to check)

Avoid using the services of any tree company that: Advertises topping as a service. Knowledgeable arborists know that topping is harmful to trees and is not an accepted practice. Uses tree climbing spikes to climb trees that are being pruned. Climbing spikes can damage trees, and their use should be limited to trees that are being removed.



To join the Friends of El Cerrito Trees, or be on the mailing list contact us

Read our Letter of Introduction to the El Cerrito City Council

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