Planting the Oak Back in Oakland

Felled to make way for developments, oaks are now being nurtured to better urban health. PHOTO: Louis Dallara

What’s in a name… Shakespeare’s 400-year-old line is timeless and oft repeated. For it goes beyond a few syllables and rests on the very soul of the matter. And going by a few volunteers setting up an inaugural stand of 72 coast live oaks in a West Oakland park, it seems like someone felt it, too. Say Oakland and you’d invariably conjure up images of woodlands and acorns. That and given that the oak is America’s national tree, you’d expect vast woodlands and tributaries of branches. Instead, sentiment is attached to the few oaks that still stand their ground in the face of development and there’s a “re-oak” campaign underway. In good time, we hope.

“Names are a powerful way to think about a place,” said Walter J. Hood, a landscape architect and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who lives and works in Oakland and came up with the idea of resurrecting the city’s forgotten groves. “If a landscape changes, your way of life changes,” he said, “whether it’s a freeway cut into a neighborhood or a new dense canopy of trees.”

Read the New York Times report here.

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