Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Mature Oaks Removed Near Ojai's Gateway

This tree, located near the old Ford dealership, succumbed to drought stress, two kinds of beetles and heavy fungus according to the arborist's report

By Linda Harmon
Two mature oaks were lost along the gateway to our city just as California begins celebrating National Arbor Day next week.
According to the report submitted to the city by arborist Paul Rogers, a 50-inch mature coast live oak located on the old original Ojai Ford property succumbed to disease brought on by stress from extended drought. The tree’s support system had been destroyed by its natural predators: two types of beetles and an infestation of Hypoxylon fungus. It is not known if the oak will be replaced.
Rogers’ report on the second tree, a 41-inch healthy, mature oak located at Ojai Rotary Park, cites a very different cause for the oak’s demise. According to the report, an 8-foot-deep hole was dug within 1 foot of the tree and eight large roots, or one-quarter of the tree’s entire root system, has been removed. Rogers surmises the hole was to repair AT&T service lines.
Digging within a mature tree’s drip line requires a permit, as detailed in the Ojai city tree ordinance. According to Mike Culver of the Ojai Public Works Department, AT&T has a blanket encroachment permit for “As part of that encroachment permit they are expected to abide by city ordinances, which include specifics regarding digging within the drip line of trees,” said Culver. “In this case, the trench was inside the drip line, and therefore caused significant damage to the tree’s root system resulting in the need for its removal.”
According to Culver, the city will determine the value of the tree, cost of its removal and replacement, and will then look at AT&T’s liability for reimbursement.
Tucker Adams, a member of the Ojai Planning Commission and the Ojai Tree Committee, believes an increase in public awareness about our declining urban forest is needed, and every opportunity to reverse its decline should be taken.
“The state of Ojai’s trees is of critical importance to all who live here,” said Adams. “I try to bring this interest and awareness into the review of projects, both public and private development projects, to encourage each and every opportunity to plant trees, especially native trees, to maintain as much of our ecosystem as possible in an already developed area.”
A city-authorized task force was formed in 2000 to address tree loss in Libbey Park caused by ignorance of the needs of mature oak trees. The Tree Committee later updated the tree ordinance after an intensive 18-month study, and recommended a tree master plan. According to the committee’s presentation, “The State of Ojai’s Trees, Looking Forward to 2050,” 50 percent of our tree canopy is native oaks, and many are aging and in decline. Neither the updated ordinance nor a master plan has yet been adopted.
The city’s brochure, “Ojai’s Tree Ordinance,” contains a brief outline of the importance of trees, protected trees, permit requirements for pruning, removal, relocation and grading, trenching and constructing within the drip line. The brochure is available at City Hall.
According to planner Kanika Kith, the city has a list of certified arborists. Kith and Rogers both recommend that residents require tree trimmers to produce both an ISA license and city of Ojai business license before being hired. The ISA, International Society of Arboriculture, requires courses of study and testing before granting an arboriculture license. It is illegal to professionally trim trees in Ojai without a business license. Improperly trimmed trees can contribute to a decline in the tree’s overall health and excessive pruning or topping of protected trees is prohibited by the city.
“Call a certified arborist for recommendations, they’ll know who the hackers are and who will do a good job,” said Ojai’s code enforcement officer, Brian Meadows. “The best advice is to stand there and monitor them. Don’t just pay them and turn them loose.”
Native oaks are slow growers and take many decades to mature. Many of the oldest have survived for more than a century, pre-dating Ojai’s founding. According to environmental experts, they not only provide beauty and shade but retain moisture during heavy rains, replenishing our groundwater table. Through their life cycle, trees capture carbon dioxide replacing it with oxygen, purifying the air we breathe. Trees can also cool our streets by more than 20 degrees, and provide more pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. According to our local tree committee, many older trees are dying and too few new trees are taking their place.
Those interested in planting trees or wanting local pruning tips can contact Ojai Trees. Tom Bostrom, a member of the Tree Committee and a local landscape architect, started the nonprofit organization to work in the private sector to reforest our community.
“Our goal is to assist citizens in planting trees on their property and in their neighborhoods,” said Bostrom. “Only 25 percent of Ojai’s trees are on public land and that’s why we, as private citizens, need to be inspired to be stewards of our own treescape.”
Ojai Trees’ first valleywide plantings are this weekend. To volunteer or for information contact: Ojaitrees@sbcglobal.net. You can also visit the national Arbor Day web site at arborday.org/index.cfm.

No comments: