Multiple hands of neighbors unite to spread soil around a newly planted valley oak in William Curtis Park. Jogging or biking passersby cheer and ask about the 16 new trees added lovingly to their park. Partnering with the Sacramento Tree Foundation, more than 20 volunteers from the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association spent Saturday morning planting, among them John Mathews, center. Since 1985 he has lived in Curtis Park, in the home his grandparents bought in 1945. Mathews joined the association board eight years ago; to represent neighborhood concerns about the Curtis Park Village development that will some day add hundreds of people to the area. "There's a great sense of community here," he said. "I feel like I'm a better person for volunteering all these years. There's a sense of satisfaction I get from giving back to the community."
Mathews says that their neigborhood association is very active and has been since the 1970s when the group joined to save the Sierra II school, which they still run. They have multiple committees to address various needs. Mathews is the co-chair for the Neighborhood Concerns Committee for example, which addresses the development project and this tree planting. The sub-division being planned is located on a former rail yard where toxic dumping took place. Heritage oak trees had to be removed because of the toxic soil. Saturday's planting was part of the developer's contribution to replace the trees that had to be cut down. The neighborhood association formed a tree committee to identify the best spots for the new oak trees to be planted. This park was chosen because it had suffered the loss of other trees to disease. They strategicly identified locations for the trees where the trees could thrive but open space could be maintained for sports and other activities.
Soon the neighborhood association plans to adopt William Curtis Park and will take on general clean up and maintenance. The city has less funding to carry out such tasks so the neighborhood is stepping up to fill in the gaps. Besides the outward charm of this area it's the people that make Mathews love living and volunteering here the most.