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Volunteer Tree Planters Keep Digging Against the Odds : Environment: One nonprofit group, North East Trees, has planted thousands in the last few years. But it takes lots of help and follow-up, which is almost as hard to come by as funds.


"You can put a tree in the ground and see you've done something. The rest is plain menial labor. People say: 'Gee, I'm going to carry buckets of water to a tree and that's it?' "

Fair-weather volunteers arrive, shovel in hand, seeking "a kind of catharsis, a religious or spiritual experience," said 71-year-old Wilson, president of North East Trees and a retired high school horticulture teacher. "They want to plant a tree."

But, he said, they don't understand that to plant a tree requires more than digging a hole in the semi-desert of Southern California with its cycle of droughts and floods. They need to know, from a horticultural and water-saving standpoint, that it is better to plant trees from October to January than on Earth Day.

Dwyer-Hade acknowledged that "it's not fun to come out in 100-degree weather and pull weeds in August."

"It's not enough to be idealistic," said 46-year-old Brick, Pasadena's maverick member of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

On Saturday, Wilson, Dwyer-Hade and Brick will be planting trees, just as they did on Earth Day three years ago. Brick and a band of volunteers will plant trees and clear debris and litter from the riverbed of the Arroyo Seco.

A few miles south, Wilson and Dwyer-Hade will plant trees in two vacant lots alongside the Pasadena Freeway below Mount Washington.

"We're trying to clean up our own yard first," said Dwyer-Hade. "Then we'll clean up the world."

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