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Oak grove to honor Tretheways

SacTree's longtime leader retires with virtual ribbon-cutting

Ray and Judy Tretheway under oak trees
The Ray and Judy Tretheway Heritage Oak Preserve is named for the Sacramento Tree Foundation's retiring executive director and his wife. (Photo by Dennis Spear, courtesy Sacramento Tree Foundation)

What kind of tree would Ray Tretheway be?

No question; a Valley oak, of course, he said with a laugh. “It’s the longest living native oak, the largest that we have. It goes with our climate. It’s native to Sacramento.”

Just like Ray Tretheway.

For nearly four decades, Tretheway has been as strong and steady as a Valley oak. In the City of Trees, he’s been Sacramento’s outspoken and buoyant advocate for our urban forest.

Now, it’s his turn to enjoy a break in the shade.

Next week, Tretheway is retiring as executive director of the
Sacramento Tree Foundation .

“We’ve built a great platform, a springboard that’s very strong,” Tretheway said. “It’s time for younger people to take the helm.”

Tretheway has led SacTree since it sprouted on California Arbor Day in 1982. When he was officially named executive director in 1990, he became the foundation’s first full-time employee.

“When we started, our goal was to plant a tree a day,” recalled the 73-year-old Tretheway. “We planted 400 our first year.”
Now, SacTree’s total is somewhere over a million. Every year, the foundation helps plant many thousands, mostly through its shade program partnership with SMUD; it accounts for more than 600,000 trees and counting.

“It’s been magical,” Tretheway said. “I worked a lot of long hours, not selling a product across the counter but selling a vision. It’s now time to enjoy the world.”

SacTree is celebrating Tretheway’s legacy the best way it could – naming an oak-filled park in honor of Ray and his wife, Judy. To be shared via Facebook, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 19 at the Ray and Judy Tretheway Oak Preserve, formerly the Natomas Oaks Park.

“Due to (COVID) safety precautions, it won't be a public event, but we will livestream it on Facebook for all to view and share their well wishes or memories with Ray,” explained SacTree spokesperson Stephanie Robinson.

Nearly 13 acres of oaks on River Plaza Drive near Garden Highway will be a living tribute to Tretheway’s lifetime of service. Besides leading the foundation, he also served as a Sacramento city councilman for 10 years.

“We are also launching a special campaign to honor Ray, and gifts will go toward two initiatives very close to his heart,” Robinson said. “The first $50,000 raised will go to preserve the native oaks and flora of this park and add some amenities to support outdoor education. All other contributions will go toward the Evergreen Fund, projects that improve canopy equity throughout the region.”

(Find out more at .)

Ray Tretheway at a 1980s tree planting.

A Sacramento native, Tretheway grew up with an admiration for nature. After working in Washington D.C. as an environmental researcher and at the Smithsonian Institution, he returned to his hometown to advocate for the environment.

“For years, ‘urban forest’ was an oxymoron,” he observed, noting cities didn’t actively campaign for trees.

“Now, we understand that 85, 90% of our urban forest is owned and controlled by home and property owners where they live,” he added. “Our urban forest is living, natural and affects every person’s life. It’s linked to our quality of life and health.”

Tretheway will continue to work with trees and people. His focus recently has been planting trees in historically impoverished (and treeless) neighborhoods.

“It’s been a dynamic career; not a job, but a pleasure,” he said. “How else do you get to live a vision?”


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For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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