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Business Group Plants 250 Trees for New Park in Sepulveda Basin


Beneath cloudy Saturday morning skies, dozens of volunteers from a San Fernando Valley business group planted 250 trees in the Sepulveda Basin, bringing a peaceful resolution to a project that started amid a swirl of disarray.

The Valley Industry and Commerce Assn.'s "urban forest" campaign will eventually bring 1,000 cedar, pine and oak trees to the shores of man-made Lake Balboa, the centerpiece for a new Los Angeles city park along the northern edge of the basin.

VICA's donation is a boon to city officials who have big plans for Lake Balboa Park, near Victory and Balboa boulevards.

"A large park costs a lot of money," said Dick Ginevan, a chief park supervisor for the basin. "The community is helping us do this."

But a year ago, when VICA announced its $150,000 tree-planting campaign, government officials reacted with confusion. The basin is a flood plain that is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and leased to the city. VICA had made its tree-planting plans without corps approval.

The group, unveiling its grand design at a news conference, promised to plant 1,000 trees as part of Arts Park L.A., a proposed arts center that another Valley group called the Cultural Foundation is trying to build. But to VICA's surprise, neither the city nor the federal government had approved the complex.

"They never told us that they don't have the land yet," a VICA spokeswoman said about Cultural Foundation officials at the time. "VICA wanted to do something for Earth Day and the Cultural Foundation said they needed 1,000 trees for Arts Park."

Subsequently, VICA cut its ties with Arts Park and worked with government officials to revive its project. The group agreed to plant its trees in phases--250 each spring--and move the forest to an adjacent portion of the basin that was already irrigated.

"I think we got a little carried away before we dotted all the i's," said Alan B. Ungar, chairman of the project.

As part of the campaign, companies were asked to contribute money and solicit smaller donations from their employees. The employees were asked to help in the planting.

"It's not just big business throwing bucks at something," Ungar said.

City parks workers and officials from TreePeople supervised the work. An oil company sent 80 volunteers. A telephone company sent a smaller contingent, which was busy planting stone pines and deodar cedars.

"We'll do anything for a free T-shirt," said Lorraine Coleman, who works for GTE in San Fernando and was given a blue shirt with the company logo for showing up. "But really, the planting was fun."

Michael Campos, a West Hills resident, isn't a VICA member but heard about the project and came to lend a hand.

"I used to live near Yosemite National Park," Campos said. "I love trees."

VICA is one of 20 business and public-service groups that have donated everything from cherry trees to benches for Lake Balboa Park, city officials said. Lake Balboa itself is empty but is scheduled to be filled by 1993.

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