Guest blog by Cathy Butler, Executive Director of the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association, an organization dedicated to advancing and promoting business and economic interests in downtown Bakersfield.
The Invest from the Ground Up – Bakersfield campaign kick started in June with a countdown to the October 4th First Friday Imagine Trees event. It’s been a powerful journey and culminated in a fabulous event last Friday!
Amazing local partners
Invest From the Ground Up sparked exciting collaboration and enthusiasm for trees. A strong group of local partners—The Bakersfield Downtown Business Association, The Arts Council of Kern, The Tree Foundation of Kern, The Bakersfield Association of Realtors, Express Employment Professionals, The City of Bakersfield, Davey Trees, The New Development Association, The Mission at Kern County, The Kern River Parkway, San Joaquin Valley Urban Forest Council, Iger Studios, and KV Print worked hand in hand in spreading awareness to both local business and residents about the value of trees.
Tree-mendous summer activities
From tree education booths at Third Thursdays, price tags on trees, chalk stencils on sidewalks where trees should be, tree hero ads in the Bakersfield Californian, First Friday event ads in the Bakersfield Magazine and Bakersfield Life, we’ve been busy this summer sharing with Bakersfield residents how trees help increase business’ income, increase property values, create jobs and cool our city. And as someone who was out there stenciling on a blazing September day, I can tell you, anything we can do to cool Bakersfield during our hot summer days is a good thing.
Within months we could see the campaign taking effect. We received TV, print, and radio media attention for our sidewalk stencils and tree value tags. But even more exciting, residents and business owners started taking notice:
- Megan Ingles, a Bakersfield resident said: “I have been so inspired to see the creative ways your organization is spreading awareness about the importance of trees here in Bakersfield. It has led me to think of great places to place trees. One thought that came to mind was planting trees at each of our city’s bus stops. Usually there is just a bench baking in the hot sun and NO SHADE for people to take refuge under. I see people standing behind telephone poles or in other people’s yards just to avoid being in the hot Bakersfield sun.”
- Business owners began to see the value of trees too and started requesting them. Before we knew it, The New Yorker Apartments along with all the businesses in the Arts District started asking for trees. The trees started working their magic and are already transforming downtown Bakersfield.
Imagine Trees First Friday
The culmination of the campaign was the October 4th Imagine Trees First Friday! What amazing evening it was! Gorgeous tree art, Betty Younger’s new sculpture, horse drawn wagon rides, free t-shirts, travel mugs and pencils courtesy of the campaign, and live music!
Olive branch creates collaboration
The objective of our tree-themed event was to raise awareness about trees. And the event certainly did this, but additionally it also enhanced our community collaboration which will help us build a stronger Bakersfield. For example, initially, there was some confusion about what we were trying to do in closing the street for the event. With all the booths and artists either featuring the tree theme or selling art to benefit the Tree Foundation we needed an area set aside for this event. The DBA worked with relevant parties to explain the plan and to set aside an area. Moreover, all the enthusiasm for trees encouraged the City Recreation and Parks District to apply for a tree planting grant to keep the excitement moving forward. Strong partnerships are a key factor for this grant and the collaboration we have shown in this campaign can help Bakersfield secure this grant.
Bakersfield’s newly sparked appreciation for trees is transforming our downtown. And working together is creating a strong and passionate community. You could say the trees are the roots of our