Scout Christmas Tree Pickup: A 48-Year Alameda Tradition

Gala Basco &nbsp&nbsp Nathaniel Basco and Tanner Mackenzie on Christmas Tree Lane where Troop 11 made Christmas Tree Pick Up available to the many visitors this holiday season.

Scout Christmas Tree Pickup: A 48-Year Alameda Tradition

Alameda Boy Scout Troop 11 conducted its 48th annual holiday season service project last Saturday: the Christmas Tree Pick-up — a holiday tradition for many Alameda residents. Many locals will recall the scouts visiting door-to-door to canvass support, and while the tradition lives on, some changes are worth noting.  

The service began as an Eagle Scout project by Harold Zecher, Jr. in 1972, well before the county offered recycling programs. Today, some ask, why participate in a tree collection service when the county offers tree removal for free? The county actually supports the service project by advertising it on their website this time of year. Having the scouts remove close to 800 trees across Alameda greatly eases the county’s tree-removal burden.  

For years, the troop created a map of trees awaiting pick up, divided the map into zones and then assigned various crews to each zone. Today, the same planning is needed, but now technology supports mapping the location of the trees and verifying pick up. In recent years, Troop 11 has partnered with Juniper Ridge — a Berkeley-based company that comes to extract oils from the trees to formulate fragrances for soaps, perfumes and incense. The remaining mulch is then used for landscaping at Alameda Point Collaborative — creating additional reuse of the trees and reducing the trees in the waste stream.

In the past, Island residents could count on scouts knocking on their doors to solicit a donation. Today, scouts continue the door-to-door tradition as well as phone calls with tag delivery. They endure all weather conditions at sales booths at Encinal Nursery, Encinal Market and Christmas Tree Lane (Thompson Avenue). Scouts also utilize technology not available in the past such as cultivating a list of return customers contacted by email each year and a QR code on printed material. Cash payments are still accepted as they were 48 years ago, but so are online payments.  

The first year of the program was a service project to satisfy Zecher’s Eagle Scout requirements. Over the years, the troop has come to rely on the program to pay for the troop’s annual operational fees, summer camp and other scouting activities throughout the upcoming year.  
One thing that has not changed is the opportunity for scouts to hone skills such as communication, marketing, salesmanship, art, advertising and public speaking. 

While this season’s collection has been completed, try the tree hotline 473-6802, or visit the website at to see if the scouts might still be able to collect a tree. You must be an Alameda resident to participate and the cost is $5. Any additional donation for trees larger than six feet and “no-tree” donations are appreciated.