Livermore: Neighbors battle to save 300-year-old tree

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Livermore: Neighbors battle to save 300-year-old tree

Livermore: Neighbors battle to save 300-year-old tree

LIVERMORE — Residents are fighting to keep a 300-year-old oak tree from being chopped down, but the tree’s decay could put it at risk.

The valley oak tree sits in Sunset Park in Livermore, where it’s been for the last 300 years and where some neighbors argue it could last another 300, if it’s cared for and not cut down with chainsaws.

But an arborist report by Hort Science in Pleasanton, commissioned by the Livermore Area and Recreation Park District (LARPD), states the tree has a high chance that one of its larger stems could fall, given the decay inside. The arborist, however, states in his report that the dangers associated with a stem falling could be helped by pruning, and removing people from the area. He suggested installing a fence with signs warning people of the potential dangers.

But those opposed to the tree removal, such as resident Terry McCune, point out the arborist report does not suggest tree removal.

“It appears that the decision to remove our heritage oak tree is not a matter of safety, but of dollars and cents,” he said.

Residents protested the potential removal with phone calls to the park district, which operates most of the city’s parks and recreation areas, and a recent online petition, which gathered more than 250 signatures.

McCune, who grew up in Livermore, said the tree has some sentimental value for him as well. He and his wife would climb the tree as children, as they lived just blocks away from it.

Nischal Belthangady, a resident who lives across the street from the tree and helped start the petition, said he understands that the park district may want to eliminate its liability, but believes there are ways to save the tree as the arborist report suggests.

“We just didn’t want the city to overreact to something,” said Belthangady.

After the public outcry, the park district changed its tune, and decided to get a second opinion by another arborist. The report was made public this week and had similar findings to the first one: Although the tree is at risk, there are some recommendations to prune it, fence it off and remove the children’s playground nearby, said LARPD General Manager Tim Barry.

According to the second arborist report, compiled by Dryad LLC, none of the potential failures are imminent “but the potential for failure will increase over time.” Different than the first report, this arborist also suggests installing support props between specific limbs and stems as well as a a layer of mulch to protect the tree’s roots and its general health.

The arborist even supplied a picture of a sample warning sign that states: ” I am an old tree. Please enjoy me from a safe distance.”

Normally, a tree removal would be a simple administrative function under the general manager, Barry said.

“None of this is common for the LARPD,” he said.

Given the tree’s age, its popularity and the public response, Barry said the district did change it’s initial take on what to do with the tree. Now, the matter will go before the park district board at its March 29 meeting.

Livermore City Manager Marc Roberts has reviewed the initial arborist report, which came out in November 2016, and agreed to it, Barry said. The city does have a permitting process the park district would have to apply for to remove the tree, he said. Other than that, the city’s role is limited given that it contracts with the park district to control most of its parks and recreation throughout the city.

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Published at Fri, 17 Mar 2017 17:00:59 +0000