More than two decades after the city of Lodi dedicated a park at Lower Sacramento Road and Century Boulevard in honor of Ed DeBenedetti, he will finally be able to plant a tree with his family on Saturday.
The city is celebrating Arbor Day by planting 51 trees at the park. It will finish the first phase of improvements at the park that includes three multi-sports playing fields and, in total, the planting of 210 trees.
Ed DeBenedetti, who worked for the Parks and Recreation Department for 43 years, helped open 23 parks during his tenure with the department. The park was dedicated in 1990 but was not developed until recently.
Councilman Bob Johnson said finishing the first phase of the park is long overdue.
"I'm really, really happy that Mr. DeBenedetti is still alive to see the opening of it," Johnson said. "It will provide us with needed access to fields. We have been short on fields for years, so this will help alleviate that problem."
The city plans to host the Arbor Day celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Parks Superintendent Steve Dutra said.
"We are encouraging the community to come help get their hands dirty and help plant trees. They can be part of history because this will complete phase one improvements," Dutra said.
The city plans to shut down Century Boulevard from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for the planting. The event will include a possible visit from Smokey the Bear, a poster contest for Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and lunch.
At the event, Tree Lodi will also find out whether the city will receive the distinction of a Tree City USA for the 10th year in a row.
Tree Lodi raised $18,000 to plant the trees at the park. As part of the nonprofit's agreement with the city, Tree Lodi will also maintain them for three years.
In general, arborists expect to lose 10 to 15 percent of any trees planted because there might be poor specimens, some don't get watered properly, and some may be vandalized.
The nonprofit is planting 28 different species at the park, and they are planning to use it as a laboratory to see what type of plants grow well in Lodi, Dutra said. The trees will include oaks from all over the world, including Turkey, Portugal and Italy.
Tree Lodi plans to put up two signs letting the community know about the different variety of trees.
"We want people to say, 'I didn't even know a tree from Turkey could grow in Lodi,'" Dutra said.
The city will have an official ribbon cutting for the park in May.
For more information on volunteering, contact the Parks Department at 209-333-6742, call Tree Lodi at 209-334-6668 or visit www.treelodi.org.