KYCC Environmental Services took part in a three-day international urban forestry conference from Nov. 6-8 in Irvine, California. KYCC Executive Director Johng Ho Song, Environmental Services Manager Rachel Malarich and Community Engagement Coordinator Will Levegood all spoke about KYCC’s best efforts and practices towards building a community forestry program in an urban environment, leaving a lasting impression of KYCC as a leader in community environmental services.

On Tuesday, Nov., 6, Rachel Malarich presented “Who You Should Know in Your Community” at the Alliance for Community Trees Day. This one-day event, presented by the Arbor Day Foundation, brought together community activists, urban forestry leaders and environmental experts for networking and educational workshops. 

Malarich’s presentation welcomed Carlos Campero of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Marilee Kuhlmann of the Urban Waters Group and Johng Ho Song, Executive Director of KYCC.

Campero was the longtime facilitator of the City Plants collaborative, funded by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which plants and distributes five-gallon yard trees to L.A. city residents. Campero was celebrating his 30-year anniversary with LACC, and Campero spoke about the Corps and its youth involvement in their planting approach and mission.

Kuhlmann designs landscapes and water capture projects. She spoke about utilizing the best science for thoughtful design and the importance of promoting healthy ecosystems and beautiful landscapes that can thrive on the actual rainfall that Los Angeles receives.

Song spoke about KYCC’s shift to becoming a multicultural agency and its relevance in urban forestry. One of the challenges for community-based forestry is the lack of diversity and recruitment from the neighborhoods served.

“Hiring diverse staff is one thing,” Song attested, “but to be a successful multicultural agency, you must change the organizational culture, which takes time and is much harder.”

To effect real change in the community, Malarich stressed the importance of working with community partners in urban forestry, as other agencies might be better equipped in skills or knowledge.

With more than 90% of Americans living and working in towns and metropolitan areas, the need for informed action on a local level is greater than ever. KYCC is part of The Arbor Day Foundation’s Alliance for Community Trees network, a premier collaborative of community-based organizations dedicated to improving the livability of their towns and cities through planting and caring for trees.

Largest International Gathering for Urban Forestry

Malarich also represented KYCC the next day at the Partners in Community Forestry Conference, which was held on November 7-8, 2018. This two-day conference is the largest international gathering of urban forestry practitioners, advocates, researchers and government leaders. At this year’s conference, passionate community forestry leaders—including researchers, staff from local, state and federal agencies, companies and nonprofit groups—shared the latest research, best practices, trends in community forestry and enjoyed opportunities to network.

Malarich presented on the CBSM (community-based social marketing) methodology that KYCC incorporates to engage residents in caring for newly planted trees in Koreatown neighborhoods. This specific behavior change methodology encourages community members to water trees by first, understanding their individual cares and concerns, and second, what obstacles precluded tree care behaviors in the past.

Rachel has been working in urban forestry in the Los Angeles area for more than a decade, focusing on serving and increasing tree canopy in high-need communities. She is also a Street Tree Seminar board member, an ISA-Certified arborist, and the former Director of Forestry for TreePeople.

CBSM’s pilot program began at Tree People. This year, KYCC received a new grant from CalFire to run a second pilot program to refine and improve outreach materials to deliver while planting 400 trees in South L.A.

This CBSM program will allow Environmental Services to use resources better to provide great service, healthy trees and stronger communities.

“Any community project or initiative should begin by listening to the community without assumptions,” Malarich explained. “And we know we can get healthier trees if we get community support in watering.”

Bolstering KYCC’s presence at the conference, Community Engagement Coordinator Will Levegood spoke on a panel on volunteer management. Currently, Environmental Services hosts community cleanups, tree plantings and group volunteer events. In 2018, Environmental Services held over 45 community events with over 1,040 volunteers throughout Los Angeles.

For more information on our Environmental Services, or how to volunteer, please visit this page.