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Tree time: council modifies park, removes eucalyptus

Remove the targets below or remove the risky trees above? The Carpinteria City Council at its Sept. 25 meeting decided to do a bit of both at Heath Ranch Park, where 125-plus-year-old, 80-plus-foot-tall eucalyptus trees tower dangerously over a children’s play structure, turf and several homes.

The council voted unanimously in favor of cutting down the least healthy of the five-remaining blue gum eucalyptuses, while the other trees get critical analysis and management before being eventually phased out and replaced with native trees like oaks and sycamores. The council considered moving the park’s play structure for an estimated $175,000 but opted to eliminate it altogether in order to retain the open grassy area used for playing and dog walking. Fencing around the base of each tree will help to keep the public from the highest-risk areas for falling limbs.

Limbs regularly drop at the park, and Parks and Recreation Director Matt Roberts showed photos of a recently broken 12-inch branch dangling 80 feet high. In 2002, one of the historic trees toppled. It didn’t cause any major damage, but it heightened concern among some neighbors and at the city. Nearby resident Jack Dotts said of the 2002 incident, “It fell toward the house. It was loud. And it was scary as hell.”

But many surrounding homeowners have fought to preserve the trees. They note that the massive eucalyptuses are integral to the neighborhood’s character, provide habitat for birds and have historic significance. “Please do everything you can to save these trees for as long as possible,” former councilman and nearby resident Greg Gandrud beseeched the city council.

The city has debated for years over what to do about Heath Ranch Park’s well-loved and widely feared trees. They are part of the park’s historic landmark, the centerpiece of which is an adobe structure once incorporated into the grand home of Russell Heath, one of the valley’s early agricultural giants. Heath grew walnuts on hundreds of surrounding acres and planted the eucalyptuses around 1870 along the carriageway leading to his house.

“We can’t really win on this one,” said Councilman Gregg Carty. “Liability wise we should cut them all down.” He and Councilman Brad Stein argued on the side of safety, with Stein noting that it would intolerable if an injury or death occurred because the city had failed to remove the danger. The city’s liability is high related to the trees, reported legal counsel Jessica Dios, because the trees have been documented by arborists as potentially dangerous.

Councilman Al Clark argued for preserving the trees. “If we remove the targets then we remove a lot of the risks,” he said. Later in the meeting, Clark and Stein debated how much risk the city should assume, and Clark said, “We’re accepting some risk because we like these trees and the neighbors like these trees.”

Mayor Fred Shaw pointed out that he had visited the park that morning and examining the tree documented as the least healthy of the bunch. “I was standing underneath it today and looking up and worrying about it the whole time,” he said.

Councilman Wade Nomura owns a landscaping company and brought his decades of plant knowledge to the discussion. He advised the arborists to conduct several tests that would help to better analyze the health of the trees. The tree management plan developed by arborist Kenneth Knight involves significant pruning and evaluation over the next five years.

Councilmembers agreed that the tree closest to the existing playground should be preserved. Described by Knight as “likely to continue to live for decades,” that tree is considered the healthiest and least risky.

Community Garden preps for opening

As the construction on the new Carpinteria Garden Park wraps up under the public eye, the behind-the-scenes preparation is also nearly complete. At its Sept. 25 meeting, the Carpinteria City Council approved rules and regulations for the new garden, located at 4855 5th Street, and heard from newly hired garden manager Alena Steen.

Starring in the organic garden are the 100 garden plots available for rental to Carpinteria residents. The 5- by 10-foot garden plots will cost $60 per six-month period, and rent will include the soil bed and water. A shared tool shed will be available, also. Renters will be required to volunteer four hours each six months.

A lottery will be held if more than 100 residents apply for a plot, and priority will be granted to applicants who live within 1,000 feet of the garden and who lack a space of their own to garden.

Steen said that in addition to managing members, her position entails coordinating educational opportunities. “I’m really excited to bring a lot of hands-on, how-to classes to the garden,” she said. Classes in gardening, sustainability, composting, cooking, ecology and ethnobotany will be offered to the public as well as garden members.

The garden’s design includes several elements conducive to garden education, including a commercial kitchen, bioswale, native plant areas, shaded seating sections and large-scale composting facilities.

Fencing surrounds the garden, and members will access their plots through a locked gate with a code. Steen’s office will be onsite, and she plans to have the gates open to the public during her part-time work schedule.

To find out more or receive an application for the garden, contact Steen at alenas@ci.carpinteria.ca.us.

Article source: http://www.coastalview.com/news/tree-time-council-modifies-park-removes-eucalyptus/article_0f366826-a494-11e7-ac44-9f51349abe8e.html