By: Elizabeth Sarmiento
It was the first Earth Day event for Angelica Mora. She is a Mother of two, who is originally from Mexico and now resides in East Palo Alto. “This is the first time I have ever participated in an Earth Day event. I’m really concerned about the health of our Planet, the future of my children and sometimes it’s difficult to know what to do to protect our natural environment and our health. It’s good to have this celebration and activities. I hope this is not last time you bring us together,” said Angelica.
Angelica was one of over 150 people from all walks of life and backgrounds that came to Bell Street Park in East Palo Alto, to celebrate Earth Day. On that beautiful sunny Saturday morning the celebration began at 8:00am, with light refreshments and inspiring speeches. This was followed by an opportunity to learn about the importance and significance of this day, the history, the challenges, and the need for the East Palo Alto community to take action. Lisa Gauthier, East Palo Alto’s Vice Mayor, read a Proclamation, written by Committee for Green Foothills and signed by the City council, which proclaimed April 19 as the official Earth Day of East Palo Alto from that day forth. Gauthier then gave a keynote speech regarding Earth Day. She shared her memories about the first-ever Earth Day in 1970 and the importance of remembering that Earth Day is everyday and not just once a year. Council Member and former Mayor Ruben Abrica then joined Vice-Mayor Gauthier and talked about the challenges that the city has in terms of the lack of financial resources. “This 30 year old city has people power and when the community comes together and sets their minds to do something, it gets done,” said Councilmember Abrica.
Our goal was to be known by East Palo Alto, build lasting relationships, and continue our work in East Palo Alto. We worked very closely with the city staff, elected officials and organizations such as Youth United for Community Action (YUCA), who know the community and are doing great work in the areas of environmental justice, affordable housing and environmental impacts, waste, education and water quality. Promotoras Verdes, a grassroots organization of women who organize the community on issues related to recycling and waste, also played a key role along with church groups, who were instrumental in bringing many volunteers to the event. One of these church groups was the San Francisco East Tongan Stake: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose help was instrumental in the success of this Earth Day event.
Committee for Green Foothills conducted a watershed workshop, which drew about 20 community members, to inform people about the watershed that they live in and different ways in which they can help protect it. Towards the end of the watershed workshop, we teamed up with YUCA, who engaged the group in a heartfelt discussion on affordable housing and different environmental issues. Meanwhile, Promotoras Verdes engaged families with children to demonstrate how to make art and useful items out of recycled materials and also talked about the importance of recycling items; the City of East Palo Alto hosted a “clean up our streets” activity in which residents and volunteers went around East Palo Alto to pick up trash and beautify the streets on which they live and play; Acterra held a Bay Trail restoration activity where volunteers helped by pulling weeds and planting California native plants; the City of East Palo Alto hosted an activity at Cooley Landing where volunteers helped with native plantings; Canopy hosted a tree care activity where volunteers helped to keep our urban forest healthy and happy by weeding, mulching, and watering young trees; and Collective Roots taught people how to plant and grow vegetables using environmentally friendly growing practices.
Cooley Landing’s native landscape care workshop gave people a hands-on experience planting California natives and explained the benefits of using natives to landscape as well as how to care for them. We raffled off three items: a Patagonia backpack, Patagonia hat, and Patagonia belt. Participants entered the raffle for free by filling out a survey about their connection to nature. The survey asked participants what natural places they enjoy in East Palo Alto and their thoughts on what could be done to improve these places.We would like to thank our generous event sponsors: Hobees, Ikea, and Philz Coffee who provided breakfast for the Community Earth Day Celebration volunteers.
Our next event in East Palo Alto will be a Nature Walk in the area of Cooley Landing and Ravenswood Open Space Preserve on Saturday June 14th, 2014. Community members will learn about the history and importance of Cooley Landing. We will also discuss challenges of the bayfront and opportunities for a healthier environment. The walk will be led by docents from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. For more information, please contact Elizabeth Sarmiento at: [email protected] or (650) 968-7243 x 340.