Monday, December 17, 2007
Adam Kaye's L101 tree article
More Leucadia trees identified for removal
By: ADAM KAYE- North County Times
ENCINITAS - After years of decline, more and more of Leucadia's historic eucalyptus trees are dying, and their demise could damage the look of the quaint seaside town, some residents say.
At least seven of the tall and twisted trees that tower over the railroad tracks and North Coast Highway 101 are dead and recommended for removal.
The felling of those trees and seven others could begin as soon as next week, according to the North County Transit District. Nearly 10 others trees should be watched closely because their roots show signs of decay, a transit district report says.
The sinuous trees unfurl their limbs above the coast highway, creating a bushy, green canopy that some residents say is a signature of their community.
As gaps in the canopy grow wider and wider, activists have renewed their call for Encinitas to adopt a tree management policy that would ensure new trees are planted when old ones are removed.
"All I'm seeing is more trees going away and I'm not seeing anything actually being replaced," said Russell Levan, a former Parks and Recreation Commission member. "It's of extreme concern to me. We're quickly losing the entire canopy along the coast highway and trees in general all over the city."
Policy in the works
While community members cling dearly to the trees, a report commissioned by the transit district states that some of them must go.
The report - conducted by Oceanside-based Arborist Consulting Service - examines the health of nearly 60 blue gum eucalyptus trees along the railroad right of way between La Costa Avenue and Basil Street.
At least 13 of the trees have been removed since 2003, the report states. It adds that the city's work on storm drains and sewer lines in the area may have undermined the health of the trees.
Encinitas officials said they are now looking for ways to save or replace the trees and still make sure the city's infrastructure needs are being met.
The city's public works director, Larry Watt, said last week that his department is reviewing existing tree policies and regulations and will bring a tree management program to the City Council for review next month.
The policy must balance the aesthetic quality of trees with the government's need to provide public utilities such as storm drains and sewer lines, said Mayor Jerome Stocks.
Stocks, the city's delegate to the transit district's board of directors, added that the agency knows that Encinitas values its trees but that its priority is to keep the railway safe.
A host of ailments
In 2003, a mature tree fell on the tracks in Leucadia, said Tom Kelleher, a transit district spokesman. A resident reported it and no damage to trains or passengers resulted, although some trains travel at 90 mph through that stretch, he said.
The transit district began its survey of Leucadia's trees shortly thereafter, Kelleher said.
A report issued in October recommends removing at least seven trees and trimming and monitoring several others that show evidence of decay, including:
- Decay conk, a fruiting or spore that grows fungi that resembles a mushroom.
- Epicormic shoots, which grow from stems and branches, often as a result of stress.
- Sulfur fungus, which indicates rot that can extend to the heartwood.
- Kino, a reddish-brown, gummy substance eucalyptus trees produce to avert invasions of pathogens.
A tough year for trees
The report does not address replacing the trees identified for removal.
Kelleher said the transit district has no plans to plant new trees but would work with the city or any community group willing to bear the cost of planting trees and maintaining them.
Replacement trees must not interfere with railroad operations, he said, and also must be native to Southern California.
That means no more eucalyptus, which originate from Australia.
In addition to the eucalyptus trees felled or identified for removal along the railroad corridor, other mature trees have met chain saws elsewhere in the city.
In March, high winds toppled a 60-foot-tall eucalyptus tree on South Coast Highway 101 at J Street, causing minor injuries and damaging three cars in the Hansen Surfboards parking lot.
A landmark cypress tree was removed from Leucadia Roadside Park in April after an arborist's report deemed it unsafe. It was replaced with a cypress sapling.
At the same park, two other large trees were removed in October - one of them mistakenly.
That came one month after city-contracted crews in September removed two tall eucalyptus trees on North Coast Highway 101 at Phoebe Street.
Around that time, a private developer felled another big one along Vulcan Avenue at Ashbury Street.
'A signature of Leucadia'
Stocks said the replanting of trees should have started years ago.
"What I'd like to see is a logical sequence of plantings, so as the trees go through their life spans, we would have a regular planting of replacements so we don't have this sort of barren period of time," Stocks said.
Leucadia Town Council's president, Rachelle Collier, said she wants to see a policy to substantiate the remarks of city officials.
"There just has to be an urban tree policy," Collier said. "Once again, it's the double speak of 'We want to recanopy Highway 101,' then, once every three months, we lose more trees and none of them are replanted."
According to local lore, English spiritualists planted Leucadia's trees in the late 1880s to create an open-air temple. The temple included rows of cypress, eucalyptus and pine trees.
"To me," Collier said, "the tree canopy is a signature of Leucadia."