There is a new philosophy in many communities these days: If you want something done to improve your community, don't expect your fiscally strapped city government to do it; raise money and do it yourself.
That philosophy guided a group of Agoura Hills residents who wanted to replace trees around the city that had died because of lack of maintenance and other causes. The residents said they knew that the city, battling a deficit, was in no position to help.
So they began a fund-raising campaign that they say has raised $1,800. Last week, they held a ceremony for the planting of the first tree on Kanan Road near Thousand Oaks Boulevard.
"This is the way it is going to happen in the future, with the privatization of things," said Dan Kuperberg, chairman of the city's Community Services Advisory Committee.
For $50, donors can have a tree planted in their names, commemorated with a plaque installed on a nearby sidewalk, said Carol Rosenberg, the co-chairwoman along with Darlene Ballman of a citizens committee trying to increase the number of trees in the city.
The money will go toward purchasing the trees, which cost about $20 to $30 each, Rosenberg said. The $50 covers the purchase and planting of the trees and purchase of the plaque.
The tree and plaque serve as a fitting memorial to loved ones, said Rosenberg. Many of the people who have donated are using the trees as monuments to those who have died.
Alice Gowland of Santa Monica said she and her husband, Peter, will have a tree planted in honor of the late Frank Rosenthal, the father of their granddaughter, Tracy Rosenthal of Van Nuys.
"Tracy was very close to her father," said Gowland. "They got along beautifully. She is very much like him in her love of people and her sense of humor."
Rosenthal, a Santa Monica native, moved to South Carolina in 1992, where he died Aug. 5 at age 53, said Gowland. The Gowlands' daughter, Ann, was married to Rosenthal for two years.
"The tree is like a connection to Frank," said Gowland. "We very much feel that we are all part of the earth. It's like a circle: We came from the earth and we are going to return to it."
In the second phase of the program, expected to begin in early spring, trees will be planted in the parks as well as along the streets, Rosenberg said.
The trees are London planes, similar to sycamores, growing to about 40 feet, with a 30- to 40-foot crown, Rosenberg said.
Contributions for the tree program can be mailed to TREE, c/o City of Agoura Hills, 30101 Agoura Court, Suite 102, Agoura Hills, 91301.
The success of the fund-raising effort has allowed the city to qualify for matching grants from the federal government, administered through a state program called California Relief, Rosenberg said.
"To me, it shows how strong the community feels about this," she said. "The seeds that we have planted will ensure a beautiful Agoura Hills of the future."