Andy Lipkis has been planting trees for 30 years, and like the thousands of saplings he's set into dirt all over town (and around the world), he's been branching out.
Lipkis is the founder of TreePeople, the group that has cooled blistering asphalt schoolyards with Valley oaks and landscaped dreary commercial strips with sycamores. TreePeople staffers have taught generations of children and grown-ups to tend the trees they helped plant. Now, with his Center for Community Forestry, Lipkis hopes to train the leaders of his new crusade.
Over the years, TreePeople has shifted focus to renewing the watershed that nurtures the trees and people who have sunk roots in this arid megalopolis. In demonstration projects at a home in South-Central Los Angeles and on schoolyards in Pacoima and Westchester, Lipkis has proved it's possible to use landscaping and underground cisterns to hold rainwater on site and prevent the pollution and erosion that storm runoff causes.
He's learned that bureaucrats sometimes can be as dense as oak and slow-moving as a taproot. School officials and city park managers still build playgrounds and athletic fields on the cheap, pouring acres of asphalt and sowing grass seed and sprinklers without spending a bit more on cooling trees and underground systems that would yield big water and energy savings.