The first known reference to Sacramento as the “City of Trees” dates back to 1855, and by the early 1900s the saying had clearly taken hold.One place to witness the city’s incredible canopy is in Land Park, where at 33 percent coverage that area has the most trees in the city.Jennifer Drayton lives in Arden Park, a neighborhood that is right up there with Land Park in terms of canopy coverage. In fact, it was the trees that spurred Drayton and her husband to buy a house there.“The things that we really fell in love with are the two magnificent oak trees in the back and the beautiful maple that’s in front,” Drayton explained during a recent chat at her home.But she always wondered: “How did Sacramento get to have so many trees?”
A 2018 city report listed 87,324 trees within its nearly 100 square miles. Hocker says that number only reflects street trees and ones in parks, and the data was collected in 2010.“I think that it is fair to say that the city maintains approximately 100,000 public trees,” Hocker said. “Overall, there are approximately 1 million trees within city limits on both public and private property.”
Over the course of 150 years, a combination of cultural and natural processes drove Sacramento's transition from City of the Plains to the City of Trees. Local government directed early street and park tree plantings and banned problem tree species by ordinance. During the first half of the 20th century, participation in street tree planting and preservation by groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts, Science Teachers Association, and "tree enthusiasts" raised public awareness and civic pride. The large trees shading city streets became a community icon, frequently described as the "crowning jewel of Sacramento." More recently, concern about street tree health associated with declining funds for municipal tree care has spawned new partnerships that involve trained volunteers in Dutch elm disease control, residents in energy-conserving yard tree planting, and a public task force in developing policy recommendations to perpetuate Sacramento's legacy as the City of Trees.
As April showers turn the region green, a new locally produced documentary, Made in the Shade, is shedding light on how Sacramentans fought to turn the city’s open spaces into a lush tree canopy that now serves as a natural air conditioner and a significant source of civic pride.Set to debut with a free screening on April 25 at the Crest Theatre, Made in the Shade is directed by Phil D’Asaro, a Sacramento resident whose short documentary Death of Del Paso—which chronicles the economic decline along North Sacramento’s Del Paso Boulevard—won the Producer’s Choice Award at A Place Called Sacramento film festival in 2015. D’Asaro and producer Bruce Handley have spent the past two-and-a-half years studying the city’s urban tree canopy, examining how Sacramento evolved from treeless farmland to possessing the largest tree canopy in the U.S. and the third largest worldwide, after Vancouver and Singapore, according to a 2017 MIT study.“I think the tree canopy in Sacramento is probably the most important thing in Sacramento—period,” D’Asaro says. “I don’t think life would be possible [here] without this tree canopy, and it certainly wouldn’t have been possible 100 years ago.”.