Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In Memoriam: Scott Wilson

I wanted to note the passing of a good friend and a gifted teacher who cared about people. His leadership by example with a passion for restoring the earth - by getting his hands dirty and teaching people of all ages how to care for the natural world - is unsurpassed. It's rare that you see that kind of single-minded focus on a goal that grows into many pockets of nature cared for by so many hands, and which has changed the public dialogue about what resource-challenged neighborhoods can do for themselves.

Scott's favorite story of how he got started planting all those trees was the one he told on his wife, Clarli, and he's got her saying, "For better, for worst, but not for lunch, go," instead of laying around the house after he retired from teaching horticulture. As a result, he committed himself to planting five trees per day for the rest of his life. And he well exceeded his goal, too, and created North East Trees in the process.

He tells his own story about how he got started by rounding up people, donors and resources to plant a stand of trees at Occidental College back in 1989. Then North East Trees grew into a topnotch creator and builder of people's parks, with bioswales and self-sustaining landscaping along the LA River, including the Oros Green Street Project, the first in Los Angeles, and Steelhead Park. It appropriated grants to build these parks and get the residents involved in regenerating their neighborhoods while directing water back into the aquifers.

The expertise built up by Scott, and the design and planting teams he fostered, delivered very high-quality projects to these neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles, adopting Best Practices and Low Impact Development strategies that are now part of the regulatory standards for the city's project planning and design guidelines. He did his own projects, too, like a greywater system installed to water landscaping through the dry summers.

Scott's story goes on for many chapters, but I will best remember him for his absolute values of caring for life and for people. And he could be tough about it, and realistic in the face of extreme adversity, but he almost always managed to carry the day. And came out in the end of it with a lot of friends, no matter what.

I have learned much from him and will miss him.