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Students from the New Leaf Leadership Academy, an alternative high school program at Vicente Martinez High School in Martinez, climb a redwood with Tree Circus educators on the ground, Tim Womick, right, and Chad Brey. (Courtesy of Tim Womick/Tree Circus)

MARTINEZ -- As an arborist, Keith Park's main concern is the care and health of trees, as well as public safety.

"We'd like to keep the trees healthy for years," he said.

That's why the Martinez arborist at the John Muir National Historic Site is excited about California Arbor Week from March 7-14, which will be celebrated at the Martinez historic site at 1 p.m. March 9.

The public is invited to attend the event -- the first in a series -- which will explore the theme, "What Did John Muir Teach Us?"

The program will feature speakers Tim Womick and Chad Brey of Tree Circus, a traveling program that focuses on educating the public about the value of trees through entertaining and humorous activities that include audience participation.

Park, who lives in Martinez and is familiar with the landscape of the John Muir site, will demonstrate tree climbing with ropes as Womick and Brey, a tree-climbing competitor, narrate from the ground.

"As an arborist, it's all about being safe and practicing proper tree-climbing," Park said.

There's a blend of native and non-native trees as well as historic trees at the Muir site. Natives include a California bay tree, valley oak, California live oak and buckeyes, he said.

Pecan trees and one giant Sequoia tree that Muir brought back from the Sierra in the 1880s, also adorn the site.

"There's a mix of historic trees that go back to the time of John Muir," Park said, adding that trees are subject to annual inspection, which entails climbing them to determine their health.


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As educators, Womick and Brey will discuss what trees do for people as well as Muir's connection to trees, Park said.

Womick, who's based in North Carolina, said that he was in awe of the Muir house and grounds during a previous visit.

"I thought, 'He was here -- John Muir. This was where he lived," said Womick, who, with students from the New Leaf Leadership Academy, an alternative high school program at Vicente Martinez High School, climbed a redwood tree during his last visit to Martinez.

At the Arbor Day celebration, people of all ages will learn the value of trees in their everyday lives, Womick said.

"I've got a unique take on John Muir," he said. "We'll find out what John Muir loved in life from my perspective. Anytime you visit the John Muir National Historic Site is an opportunity to celebrate Arbor Day."

Visitors can participate in family-oriented nature activities until 4 p.m. No reservations are required. The event will be held under the pecan trees in the back orchards. If it rains, the event will move to the John Muir Visitor Center auditorium.

Fruit trees were recently planted in the orchards around the home to replicate the historic look during Muir's time, Park said.

"I really view the landscape and the plants very similar to how a curator deals with art in a museum," he said.

The type of trees and where they're planted tell something about the history of the John Muir National Historic Site. Knowledge about the events and what grew in the area were culled from diary entries from Muir's family and historic photos, Park said.

If you go
WHAT: Arbor Day celebration
WHEN: 1-4 p.m. March 9
WHERE: John Muir National Historic Site, 4202 Alhambra Ave., Martinez
COST: Free admission
INFORMATION: Visit www.nps.gov/jomu, or call 925-228-8860