When Kelan Johnson was a young boy visiting his grandmother in Meadowview, he’d often notice the “City of Trees” slogan painted on the side of the large water tower along Interstate 5. As he grew older, he began to recognize that the slogan was part of his hometown’s culture, featured in local music and art.
“My whole life I’ve been seeing this ‘City of Trees’ sign right there on the water tower,” he said. “And all of a sudden I drove by one day and it was completely changed. I didn’t understand.”
After the slogan was replaced by “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital” earlier this year, Johnson launched an online petition to pressure city officials into bringing back the old sign. And there now may be some momentum behind Johnson’s campaign.
Johnson met last week with Councilman Rick Jennings’ chief of staff and was told that Jennings would be open to placing “City of Trees” back on the water tower if Johnson could come up with the money to pay for the work. The early estimate pegs the cost at between $30,000 and $40,000.
Jennings opposes taking down the farm-to-fork slogan, but might support painting “City of Trees” on the blank side of the water tower visible from the southbound lanes of I-5.
“(Jennings) is firm on keeping ‘Farm to Fork’ on the tower, but he believes they can coexist,” said Jennings chief of staff Dennis Rogers. “We would be happy to help with the discussion within the city should they raise the money to put ‘City of Trees’ on the blank space.”
Visit Sacramento, the local tourism agency, led the effort to place the farm-to-fork motto on the tower. Mike Testa, president and CEO of the group, said they pushed for the slogan in part because nearly 30 cities around the nation – including six in California – also identify themselves as a “City of Trees.”
“Do I think ‘City of Trees’ drives visitors? No, I don’t,” Testa said. “It’s not a unique identity for us. That being said, if it’s important to the community, (placing it back on the tower with the farm-to-fork motto) is a worthwhile compromise to explore.”
Johnson’s online petition on change.org had more than 4,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon. He said he will rely on that group of supporters – and some additional fundraising events – to help collect the money he needs to get “City of Trees” back on the tower.
“I’m going to contact as many people as I can who love this city and want to see it back up there,” he said. “Farm to fork is something great that can be a part of us, but ‘City of Trees’ isn’t just a name – it’s part of our culture.”