The Historical Society and the Palisades Forestry Committee teamed up last Friday, January 14, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Pacific Palisades.
Gathering at Founders Oak Island on Haverford (across from the Pierson Playhouse), the two groups planted a 10-ft. native Coast Live Oak in the only available open space.
“This is the first tree in our ‘100 Trees for 100 Years’ campaign this year,” said David Card, a member of the Palisades Forestry Committee, which was created in 2019 by the Community Council, which he chairs.
Standing amidst a grove of oaks that are maintained by the Historical Society, Randy Young welcomed the invited guests for “this auspicious occasion.” He and his mother, the late Betty Lou Young, collaborated to produce six books that illuminate the history of Pacific Palisades, including the seminal “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea.”
Young introduced Historical Society President Barbara Kohn, who drew on the Youngs’ book, recounting the day 100 years ago when the town’s Founders gathered under the oaks in Temescal Canyon and drew lots for their choice of homesites on the barren mesa stretching from today’s Alphabet Streets to the Via Bluffs overlooking the Pacific.
“Armed with maps, participants drove their cars from one end of the property to the other over hastily cleared streets, leaving plumes and trails of dust,” Betty Lou wrote. “At two o’clock, under Founders’ Oaks, the drawings took place. The names of the rivals were placed in a hat, two a time, as Reverend [Charles] Scott’s daughter Martha drew the lucky slips and the winners were announced.”
By January 21, a total of 257 lots had been selected, at an average of $1,358 per lot. Work on private homes and on street improvements began in the early spring, “as soon as the heaviest rains were over.”
The town was underway.
“We are very fortunate to live here and plant this tree,” Kohn said. “And in 100 years, others will stand here and have a similar ceremony.”
Eric Dugdale, who served 10 years as president of the Historical Society before Kohn, talked about how coastal oaks are well-suited for our fire-prone hillsides and canyons. “They live for hundreds of years and can survive brush fires. Even if a fire goes through and burns off all their leaves, new leaves return next spring.”
David Card said the forestry committee was formed because the town needs more trees — in open spaces on residential parkways, in front and back yards, and in public spaces such as the Palisades Recreation Center.
Cindy Kirven, chair of the forestry committee, said, “I am particularly touched and grateful to the Historical Society for kicking off the 100-year celebration of our hometown by planting a Centennial Oak Tree on Founders Oak Island. Nothing could be more appropriate in honoring our founding.”
She read a poem, “The Oak Tree” by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr., and concluded: “This is a time to reflect on the roots of our community and the roots we are passing on for our children. And like an oak in a storm, these roots provide us strength to stand strong, endure and prosper during life’s challenges. Sometimes the difficult times can actually make us stronger.”
Author and landscape architect Kelly Comras, another forestry member, donated the oak tree that was planted at the event, and Young and Ed Lowe dug a deep hole beforehand. They refused to outsource this task.
Concluding the ceremony, Young said, “I think this is going to be an exciting year. I challenge all of the town’s organizations to examine their history and find a way to celebrate. Now on to a new year and 99 more trees!”
Towards the end, Historical Society member Donna Vaccarino read a poem she wrote for the occasion:
Toast for an Oak Tree
In honor of the Founding of Pacific Palisades
January 14, 1922
On Planting a Centennial Tree
Nothing more stoic than thee!
Please accept our humble placement
Among others who wish to grow.
May they share the sunlight and precious rain.
Purify the air with your abundance,
Breathe for us in perpetuity,
As we may one day forget.
Give us the shelter of your wisdom,
The strength of your core, limbs and roots,
The shade of your canopy to protect future generations.
Feed the universe with your acorns.
And, give us your longevity and patience to understand History.
Planting a tree is a fearless, courageous act of faith and hope.
From an acorn will grow a giant that we may never know.
January 14, 2022