STOCKTON (CBS13) — The City of Stockton is saying "Thanks but no thanks" to free trees. This comes after several nonprofits have pushed for state grants to plant hundreds of trees where the urban forest is dying, especially in impoverished neighborhoods that need it most.
"Right now that's the position we're in, we're just not able to accept that generous donation," said city spokesperson Connie Cochran.
Cochran says the city has little funding and resources to maintain the trees they currently have, let alone to add more.
Sammy Nunez with the nonprofit group, Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, pointed out one Stockton neighborhood with a lush line up of trees, but he and other community leaders say that's not the case in other parts of the city.
"We have communities and Zip codes to where the toxicity is so high," said Nunez.
He adds, "It's not only the benefits of the trees that are aesthetically pleasing, but also the quality of the trees is very important to the health and longevity of the community."
Near Stockton's downtown is an area known as Little Manila and China town, an impoverished area near a highway that some say is highly neglected. You can see dozens of dirt patches where trees once stood, but no longer.
"We wanted to plant these trees, in major heat wells, places of poverty, to help heal the area," said Dillon Delvo.
Delvo with the nonprofit "Little Manila Rising" tried to bring hundreds of free trees to Stockton through a state-run grant program offered by CALFIRE, but he says the city wouldn't take it.
"We're extremely heartbroken that the city wouldn't want to partner with us.
The state put this money out there, for nonprofits like us to apply for this, and we think Stockton should get its fair share," said Delvo.
Through CAL FIRE's Urban and Community Forestry Program, in 2018
23 grant applications were accepted, $17.5 million was awarded, and 26,000 trees will be planted in cities throughout the state
"It sounds great they're free, but unfortunately as trees mature is when the cost increases and we already have tens of thousands of trees that we don't have sufficient funds to take care of. This would just add to an already existing problem," said Cochran.
The city already has 98,000 trees and only 5 crew members to take care of them.
"We don't have the funding to care for the trees, so, unfortunately, we weren't able to accept that gracious offer," she said.
But for many, it comes down to equity, and the health benefits and boosted air quality that trees can bring to communities that are already suffering.
Until the city gets more funding for additional trees, some non-profits are working with private property owners and businesses to get trees planted on their properties as one solution to the issue.
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