Lodians could not have picked a better day to come out and help plant dozens of trees at DeBenedetti Park.
Saturday was nothing but clear skies and warm weather. The sun shone brightly and the smell of spring was in the air.
Hundreds turned out to help plant 53 new trees in the park on Lower Sacramento Road that up until this year had remained dusty and barren for some time.
Now, however, the Bermuda hybrid grass known as “Celebration” gives a beautiful green carpet to the 15 acres of land that boasts numerous species of trees — many of them various types of oaks.
Called an “outdoor laboratory,” the tree planting at DeBenedetti Park on Saturday was part of the ongoing experiment to not only keep the city of Lodi beautiful, but to see just what kind of trees hold up well in the San Joaquin Valley’s climate.
Steve Dutra, the Lodi Parks Superintendent, said the tree planting is also a way to keep community members engaged in their city.
“They get to take some sort of ownership and responsibility for the maintenance of the park and the maintaining of the trees,” he said. “This is a new urban forest.”
The first tree planting took place in February, where 160 trees were planted by roughly 300 people.
With 53 trees planted on Saturday, one by Ed DeBenedetti himself, the total number of trees in the park now totals 213.
But what is more interesting about the park is not that it is practically being renovated by the community, but that the community is set to help keep it in tip-top shape for the next three years.
Dutra said that most of the time, cities choose to hire a contractor to come out and plant the trees. The contractor then maintains the park for a certain period of time.
However, DeBenedetti Park will be maintained by the citizens of Lodi.
As Steve Dutra put it, the community is “really taking on” the project.
Such dedication in keeping the park clean or free from things like mice or gophers can be seen in the owl boxes set up by Boy Scout Brady Wells.
As part of his Eagle Scout project, he will be erecting owl boxes for barn owls — which are native to Lodi — around the park to snuff out any potential issues that certain vermin may present.
And while not all can build owl boxes, many of those out helping to plant Saturday were there to do just that — help.
Luca Poulos, 10, was playing with his friend, throwing dirt and laughing before the day’s business began.
When it was time to plant, he got serious.
His favorite part about planting?
“Well, trees give you shade,” he said matter-of-factly as he squinted at the sun.