Adopt-a-Tree Updates

“Adopt-A-Tree” Project and the North Richmond Urban Greening Plan

The Watershed Project (TWP) has been implementing the North Richmond “Adopt-A-Tree “ Project since early 2022 and is completing it in January 2024.  During this time, TWP has been partnering with neighborhood homeowners to identify and plant street trees through its Adopt-a-Tree Project, that has served to increase the urban canopy within the Project’s footprint. Toward this end, TWP selected sites and planted street trees with volunteers and homeowners, utilizing best management practices, construction details, and specifications provided by the City of Richmond Urban Greening Master Plan, theNorth Richmond Urban Greening Plan, (that was prepared by TWP consultant, Jeanine Strickland ), and theNorth Richmond Neighborhood Adopt-A-tree Implementation Toolkit that she also authored. TWP provided supplies and oversaw planting activities, including finding the best trees for the specific site concerns, and continued monitoring of trees during the plant establishment period.

Through this Adopt-A-Tree Project, The Watershed Project aims to encourage and support resident stewardship by planting climate-ready, native, and low maintenance tree species in front yards where residents are able to easily observe, water, and maintain their trees. This project encourages ownership and investment in the local community, as well as making the community cooler, shadier, and more walkable. TWP provided experience in tree planting and maintenance, and community outreach and education to homeowners with specific ties to the North Richmond area. It is it is TWP’s goal that this urban greening project, completed in conjunction and cooperation with Contra Costa County PWD, reaffirms the great need for and provides a template of a well-defined Urban Forestry Program for the unincorporated communities of Contra Costa County. Indeed, the County Department of Conservation and Development acknowledges the need for street trees, especially in disadvantaged communities, as part of its new General Plan that is entitled, Envision Contra Costa 2040. It is consequently pursuing grant funding for developing a countywide street tree master plan and acknowledges that the North Richmond Urban Greening Plan serves as a model for it.

Planning process

Conducting Tree Inventory to Account for Existing Trees and Opportunity Sites for Future Planting

TWP staff first conducted an inventory of existing urban street trees in residential North Richmond, through tracking and GIS software, including TreePlotter. This established a baseline of current conditions to geolocate existing trees and opportunity sites for future tree planting. In addition to the current and existing tree inventory within the project area, careful note was taken to identify tree planting opportunity sites where future outreach efforts would focus on connecting with community members for potential tree adoption.

TreePlotter_Map (3)

Tree Research, Selection, and Approval 

Contra Costa County PWD reviewed and approved the list of trees to use in this project, with different lists for use in the county’s public right of way, and for private property, as shown in these exhibits: 

  1. Approved Tree List with descriptions and photos
  2. Approved Tree List with TWP’s selections for 2023

The Watershed Project staff use these lists to identify and apply the “Right Tree, Right Place” principle for each opportunity site. This included assessing specific site suitability and best fit for tree species according to each microclimate, soil type, planting area, vertical clearances from electric wires etc., and resident’s preferences for evergreen or deciduous tree(s) , etc. Trees were chosen for a variety of factors, with a focus on a mix of climate-adapted nonnative street trees and native trees. Local native trees and shrubs are optimal for providing wildlife habitat and increased biodiversity in urban habitats, and other nonnative street trees were chosen to limit the amount of fruiting bodies, accumulated litter on the ground, and risk of allergies from pollen. 


Initial outreach was conducted by TWP Staff and interns. Over 5-6 weeks in the summer, staff canvassed every house within the North Richmond project area. Due to availability and the ideal timing to reach people while they were at home, canvassing occurred between 4:45pm - 6pm on summer weeknights. Canvassing teams were divided into either one or two teams depending on staffing levels with Spanish language speakers on each team.

To facilitate canvassing, TWP staff developed flyers, door hangers, and other canvassing materials including the available tree lists for the community, all in both Spanish and English. 

Available Tree List with Photos  

Tree sign installed

Tree sign installed

Project Implementation

Preparation and Tree Planting Training

To prepare for our major tree planting efforts, The Watershed Project staff and interns received tree training from the certified arborists at SBCA Tree Consulting. They demonstrated how to properly plant, stake, secure, and water street trees in the area.

Tree Planting 1

Tree planting

Tree Planting 2

And more tree planting!

Tree Planting Through Community Workdays, Staff Trainings, and Workforce Development

After completing outreach and canvassing efforts The Watershed Project reached out to homeowners who signed up to adopt specific street trees and coordinated tree planting efforts and workdays to get the trees in the ground. TWP staff and interns planted trees with community members and volunteers on weekends, and also utilized local business owners and landscaping contractors as a way to achieve time sensitive project goals, and to help North Richmond local businesses owners. 

Permitting for Planting within the Public Right of Way

A major goal of this project was to plant trees within the county owned public right of way parcels between the street and sidewalk. To achieve this end, The Watershed Project worked with homeowners to identify ideal sites for tree planting within public right of way parcels, and coordinated with Contra Costa County staff to identify, execute, and approve county-authorized encroachment permits for each public right of way parcel to be planted. 

Follow up and Maintenance 

The Watershed Project is continuing to follow up with street tree adopters to ensure the long-term viability of North Richmond’s urban street trees. Over the next five years TWP will assist homeowners with structural pruning, watering, and tree replacement as necessary in the event of tree mortality. 

TWP appreciates the assistance and input of all community members and partners, homeowners, and Contra Costa County for making this North Richmond Adopt-A-Tree Project a reality. TWP looks forward to continued partnerships to assist in further developing Contra Costa County’s Urban Forestry Program to bring urban street trees to other impacted/disadvantage communities.