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Story and photos by A.J. Herrington

January 15, 2018 (San Diego’s East County) --​ ​A group of children from the inner city San Diego neighborhood of City Heights travelled to Boulder Creek Preserve Saturday to plant trees at the wildlife sanctuary near Descanso.

The event was a partnership between non-profit organizations La Maestra Generations and the San Diego River Park Foundation (SDRPF), the owner of the preserve. The 10 children learned the importance of protecting the environment while enjoying a day in nature.

Sarah Hutmacher, Associate Director of SDRPF, said the project offers youth a respite from the big city. “This a great chance for underserved kids to get into the backcountry,” she stated.

Hutmacher noted that the trees planted were purchased with donations from the SDRPF “Give A Tree” program, which allows donors to support the group’s mission of protecting and restoring the San Diego River watershed.

The day started with an introduction to the preserve from SDRPF Education Coordinator Bob Forthun, who described the wildlife that make the area their home. A look at images from a remote wildlife camera revealed that the preserve had been visited by a bobcat, coyote, and deer over the previous few days.

Next, the children learned the proper way to plant the native tree species, which included oak, elderberry, and manzanita. They were shown how to dig a hole the proper size, and to be sure to position the plants at the correct depth. Filling the hole and watering the new trees was also demonstrated.

Christopher Ewald is the Director of La Maestra Generations, an organization that provides free educational and creative arts programs to children. He said that the partnership with SDRPF allows kids access to the serenity of nature, a rare opportunity for many of them.

Ewald shared the story of a pair of boys participating in the tree planting. Jahar and Maiwand are two of five brothers that immigrated to the United States with their parents from Kabul, Afghanistan.

“They’ve seen war, they’ve seen the Taliban. They’ve seen all that. Now they’re into skateboards,” he said.

Tim Penney, an Educator with La Maestra Generations, was making his fifth field trip to Boulder Creek Preserve. He noted that the SDRPF events, in addition to being fun, help teach kids responsibility to their community.

“This program helps show the connection between what we do in our environment, and how it impacts nature,” he said. Donations to the SDRPF Give A Tree program can be made at ​​

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