’Tis the season to give, and this year, a Cobb Mountain resident hopes you’ll consider giving something that’s a little unusual: your Christmas tree. Once you’re done with it, that is.
Kathy Blair, 49, is asking people to buy potted Christmas trees this year, rather than cut ones, and donate them at the end of the holiday season to her grass-roots group, which will then distribute them among Lake County homeowners whose properties were ravaged by the Valley fire.
While Blair’s home was spared by the blaze, her good friend wasn’t so lucky.
“One of her complaints is how hot it’s going to be in the summer, and how ugly it’s going to be, so I thought I would buy her a live tree for Christmas,” Blair said. “I started thinking, why don’t more people do that?
“I started talking to my sister in Santa Rosa, and I said, ‘Why don’t we see how many trees we can get?’ ”
So Blair and her sister, Chris Hurley, did what most people do these days when they want to get a message out: They started a Facebook page and posted a call to action. That post had been shared about 300 times as of Friday afternoon, and at last count, nine nurseries and tree farms in the North Bay were participating.
The idea is to buy a potted tree, then when you’re done with it, return it to the place you bought it. Blair and her family will pick them up and deliver them to homeowners in need.
Blair, an occupational therapist who spends her days working in Clearlake, said the commute up and down the mountain can, at times, be brutal.
“Sitting there every day in the traffic because they’re cutting these trees down,” she said. “It’s just been devastating.”
In October, she attended a meeting at Cobb Elementary School, where a forester laid out the devastation wrought by the fire. In all, about 7 million trees were lost.
“That kind of shocked me,” she said. “I actually held back the tears when he said it.”
And those figures are no exaggeration, said another forester, Kimberley Sone, who works with Cal Fire. Of the 77,000 acres that were burned, only 3,500 are considered public land, she said. That means the vast majority of trees that were lost — about 100 per acre — were on private land. That’s the bad news.
The good news, at least as far as this tree drive goes, is that Douglas fir — a tree considered by many to be a “classic” Christmas tree, according to nurseries — is native to the area, and so would be perfect to donate. But Blair’s group isn’t being picky when it comes to tree donations. They’ll take anything.
Not sure what to buy?
Korinn Woodard, a district conservationist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Lakeport, said that trees native to the area include Douglas firs, ponderosa pines, sugar pines, and in the lower-elevation areas, black oak and valley oak.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said of the effort. “Anything that people can do to get back to normal.”
Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery in Sebastopol is one of the nurseries looking to help out with the cause. So far, manager Angie Albini has seen a handful of people who are asking about potted trees and interested in donating. In addition, nursery workers have tagged potted trees with a little note that explains the drive.