As a 10-year-old boy in Philadelphia, Charlie Starbuck spent most of his time up in a tree. Today, he volunteers his time, making sure another city’s children have the same opportunity.
Since 1981, the San Francisco resident has donated his time to Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), an organization that plants trees on residential streets in an effort to increase the city’s canopy cover. Currently, he says, San Francisco ranks No. 18 in tree population among large American cities.
At least one day a week, Starbuck works as one of FUF’s 20 planting leaders, heading up a group of volunteers who gather each Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until noon. Of the groups that meet weekly, each plants between five to 10 trees, totaling 40-to-60 trees per session. Starbuck also teaches homeowners about tree species and how to care for them throughout their life cycles.
To date, Starbuck says he’s planted thousands of trees by working with the organization roughly one-to-two days a week. And, he has an emotional attachment to his work.
“I have a very large family,” he says. “I can’t go many places in San Francisco without seeing a tree I helped plant.”
In addition to adding foliage, FUF impacts the city economically. Staff members raise money to purchase the trees, keeping the cost low for interested homeowners. Instead of paying $600 for a city-provided tree, owners only pay FUF $100-to-$125. Realtors also estimate having a tree increases property values by approximately $20,000, he says.
Even with 30 years of weekly plantings, San Francisco still needs FUF’s contributions, Starbuck says. And, he’s committed to the mission.
“We have a long distance to go to get good canopy coverage in the city,” he says. “I’m going to be involved for as long as I can function.”