Beautiful old historic public trees went the way of the chainsaw. City staff said it was needed due to maintenance costs, and liability issues. I’d like to suggest that the problem isn’t the trees. The problem is the way we deal with our trees in the public space. Anyone who has successfully grown anything from an azalea to a zucchini, knows that healthy plants need light, good soil with nutrients, deep watering, and room to grow. Instead, we’ve basically created a dead zone around most of our oldest trees. We have concrete sidewalks and concrete slurry poured up to the trunks – completely cutting the trees off from rainwater, soil, fertilizer, with no room to grow. We wonder why roots are pushing up the concrete? Our trees are in survival mode, searching for more nutrients and water. This isn’t rocket science.
Many cities have figured out how to peacefully co-exist with old trees on sidewalks. Walk around tree-lined Santa Monica, Long Beach or even the Irvine Spectrum. You’ll see iron “tree-rings” surrounding trees, which support healthy soil and allow trees room to grow. If tree roots are moving up the sidewalk, add some deep watering pipes, and use a flexible paving system that can be easily removed and replaced when roots need a “haircut”. If tree berries stain the concrete brown, stain the concrete to match. We’re an artist colony for Nature’s sake!
Our historic trees bless us with shade, cooling, and an undeniable enhancement to our outdoor experience in more ways than an expense sheet can account for. Our trees differentiate Laguna from other tourist destinations. Lose the trees and watch what happens to our visitor numbers.
With the design, urban planning and landscaping talent in town, I’m sure we can come up with a design that’s better for trees and shoppers as well as environmental and economic sustainability. Repouring the same concrete rings around the new replacement trees with no healthy soil or a deep watering system sets ourselves up for more historic trees going the way of the chainsaw.
There’s an old Russian proverb, “No matter how far you are down the wrong road, turn around and go back.” I truly hope we figure this one out so historic trees will be here for our children and grandchildren to enjoy and appreciate long after we’re gone.
Paul “Christopher” Prelitz, Laguna Beach