Residents bid farewell to Dimond Park’s beloved oak tree

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Residents bid farewell to Dimond Park’s beloved oak tree

Residents bid farewell to Dimond Park’s beloved oak tree

OAKLAND — The towering oak tree that stands above the picnic area in Dimond Park has looked down upon a lot of life events during its time.

No one knows exactly how old it is, but the oak has been sheltering Oaklanders from the sun for as long as anyone can remember. Generations have come and gone, but the tree remains.

“It’s seen many world wars and conflicts,” said Giacomo Damonte, senior arborist for the city of Oakland. “I also thought of the many picnics, all of the babies who took naps under the tree, the first kisses, climbing through the middle of the tree and the first beers. We can only imagine in our minds the huge amount of history that is soaked into this tree.”

Ruth Villasenor speaks to residents who came to Dimond Park Saturday to say goodbye to an oak tree scheduled to be cut down.
Ruth Villasenor speaks to residents Saturday who came to Dimond Park to say goodbye to an oak tree scheduled to be cut down. (David Boitano/for Bay Area News Group) 

But like all living beings, the tree cannot live forever and is scheduled to be cut down in September. Its demise began in June when a large branch fell and heavily damaged a nearby picnic table. After years of drought, the tree was soaked in water during last winter’s heavy rains only to have that water warm up during the summer heat wave.

“It was dripping with water and basically boiled and exploded,” said Michelle Doppelt, recreation supervisor. “It was an old tree.“

About two dozen neighborhood residents gathered Saturday to bid farewell to the tree. The ceremony included songs, a Native American ritual and a recognition that the tree is, in a sense, alive.

“You are like-minded people,” said Ruth Villasenor, who lives in the Dimond, “You are for all the living beings around us.” All of us are aware that we are caretakers of this land. I thank you for your consciousness of the energy that surrounds us.”

Determining the exact age of the western oak is difficult, but Doppelt said it likely may have been around when the Hugh Dimond family (after whom the park is named) bought the property in the 1850s.

A sign warns patrons of Oakland’s Dimond Park not to climb an unstable tree.
A sign warns patrons of Oakland’s Dimond Park not to climb the unstable tree. (David Boitano/for Bay Area News Group) 

Damonte didn’t know either, but used another human analogy to date the aged oak.

“Sometimes — like a graceful older woman — you don’t want to ask, and they don’t want to tell,” he said.

Droughts, heat, fungus-caused rot and other factors can impede a tree’s ability to fight off disease, Damonte said. Oaks in the Bay Area and nationwide are subject to the rot.

“Drought is one of the many stress elements that can make trees less able to defend themselves,” he said. “It does play a factor. Though oaks are more drought-tolerant, they are subject to that boom-and-bust cycle.”

“The tree was bringing up a lot of water into the canopy during the hot weather,” Damonte said. “That causes extra weight, which causes extra strain, and, because of the decay that was present, it caused the limb to fail.”

Doppelt said once the tree is felled, she and others will be able to tell its exact age by counting the growth rings on the base. That section may be mounted on the scout hut with push pins to mark worldwide events that occurred during the oak’s lifetime, she added.

The remaining timber is not of the quality to be used for wooden construction, but it could be made into carved art, Doppelt said. She is looking for ideas, and one resident suggested that the wood could be carved into seating.

Once the upper sections of the tree are removed, the lowest section will remain standing until crews can find the time to grind the stump. This is to prevent park patrons from tripping on the wood, Damonte said.

“We would rather have someone run into it than trip on it,” he said.

Being an arborist, Damonte does not like to cut down trees, but sometimes felling them is necessary, he said.

“At some point, it’s time to say goodbye, but I wanted to let everybody know that we took this decision very seriously,” he said. “It wasn’t something that we went into lightly or frivolously.”

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Published at Tue, 29 Aug 2017 13:21:53 +0000