A massive effort is underway to plant tens of thousands of trees and shrubs throughout Bakersfield as part of the city’s effort to beautify areas of town devastated by the drought.
Beginning this week, contractors for the city of Bakersfield began work on the city’s $1.5 million effort to plant 3,550 trees and 32,100 shrubs along the city’s roadways.
The plan dwarfs the city’s previous efforts to replace greenery that died during the drought and were not replaced due to budget restrictions. In prior years, around 100 to 150 trees have been planted.
“This is bigger than we’ve ever done,” said Bakersfield Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover.
Assistant Director Darin Budak agreed.
“Even when we were bidding this, a couple nurseries were asking if our numbers were correct,” he said.
Those nurseries, which grow the plants the city hopes to spread around Bakersfield, thought the Recreation and Parks Department might have added an extra zero onto the end of their requests.
But that wasn’t the case. The city really did need 6,000 Texas privets and 5,000 red-leaf photinias.
“In order to get those, we need to search several states wide,” Hoover said.
The contractors are expected to work every day for the next six months to bring the city’s plan to reality.
Only areas that were impacted by the drought will be restored. However, those areas are spread everywhere throughout Bakersfield, especially the southwest.
Due to budget restrictions during the drought, which began in Bakersfield around 2008, some plants that died were not replaced.
“People don’t realize how much trees got taken out,” said Assistant City Manager Chris Huot.
He praised the city’s new efforts, which are funded through the one percent sales tax increase known as the Public Safety / Vital Services Measure.
“It’s really in the neighborhoods,” he said of the new planting. “It’s really localized.”
On Thursday, contractors planted small shrubs and trees along Olive Drive, near Baytree Way, working quickly in the unseasonably high temperatures.
The city hopes the new foliage will show the general public its tax dollars are being spent well.
“We want to show people that they’re getting their bang for their buck,” City Spokesperson Joe Conroy said.
After the city completes its planting efforts, it will return to its normal rate of replacing dead plants like it did before the drought.