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70-year-old shade trees removed from Valencia Park without public outreach

Three 70-year-old Chinese elm trees were cut down at Valencia Park in southwest Fullerton on Tuesday morning, February 22. The City provided no community notice or engagement before the removals, save for a painted ‘X’ on the trees.

According to Public Works Superintendent Dan Diaz, the trees were removed due to decay at the base and concern over public safety from potential falling trees or branches.

On February 12, Jensen Hallstrom, a Parks and Recreation Commissioner noticed that three trees in (74 year old) Valencia Park were marked for removal. Photo by Jensen Hallstrom.

On February 22 the trees were removed leaving metal picnic tables with no shade on a concrete slab. Photo by Jensen Hallstrom.

City Arborist Roger Cardenas performed a level two tree risk assessment and found that the tree in the grass area had decay, likely from mower damage. Two trees in the hardscape area showed cavities, and one had high carpenter ant activity. For more information on tree risk assessment, visit the International Society of Arboriculture website (www.isa-arbor.com).

“Our initial goal is to retain trees when other mitigation options are available,” Cardenas said, “For this item there weren’t alternatives to save the trees.”

Planted around the park’s inception, the sprawling trees provided shade for generations of local families. The loss of the trees will remove nearly all shade in the picnic area of the park.

Valencia Park Chinese elms prior to removal. Photo by Jensen Hallstrom.

Valencia Park picnic area after removal of Chinese Elms. Photo by Jensen Hallstrom.

Cardenas said that new trees will be planted: “I am going to visit Valencia Park and choose appropriate species for the park at the earliest time.”

Parks and Rec Commissioner Jensen Hallstrom said he believes there should have been more community outreach when deciding to remove such historic and important shade trees, and that there are alternatives to removal that could both preserve the trees and mitigate the safety risk. These include targeted pruning to remove excess canopy weight, adjusting sprinklers that overspray onto tree trunks, soil restoration, and proper mulching around the trees.

Hallstrom said he believes the trees had developed various stages of decay due to a history of improper irrigation and mechanical damage from mowing the surrounding grass, practices that led to the removal of six Chinese Elms at Adlena Park last year.

Cardenas acknowledged this fact and said, “We are currently working throughout our park system to provide mulch barriers around trees and adjust sprinklers where feasible.”

In the case of Adlena Park, tree removal was postponed and a community meeting was held to explain the reasons for the removal and receive community input. Additionally, a woodpile was left for the community to take, and natural log benches were placed from the trunks of the trees–all things the Valencia Park neighborhood was not offered.

When asked why not, Cardenas said, “There was no need for a public outreach…There was no need for a community meeting…There was no need to leave wood on site.”

The Adelna Park community meeting took place after neighbors organized and showed up at City Council meetings to express their concern about the tree removals.

“This highlights a difference between neighborhoods who have the time and wherewithal to contact their representatives, and those who do not,” Hallstrom said. “Parks in Fullerton are seeing severe losses of mature canopy cover especially in south Fullerton where shade is already a scarce resource.”

When asked if he is concerned about the loss of shade trees in south Fullerton, Cardenas said, “I am not concerned because we are working and vested in maintaining and growing our forest throughout the City. We will soon have the ability to resume planting at a good volume level once the Community Forest Management Plan is approved and adopted.”

If you see an X painted on a tree in your neighborhood, it is a sign that the tree is scheduled for removal.

Residents who have questions can contact Dan Diaz at dan.diaz@cityoffullerton.com or Roger Cardenas (Roger.cardenas@cityoffullerton.com) or by calling (714) 738-6897.

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9 replies »

  1. Chutzpa! I see no need for Cardenas to remain in this job. Just planting new trees won’t fill the need for shade for a very long time.

    He doesn’t get it, and to say there was no need for outreach is beyond the pale.

      • Your pattern is always ignorant. What other piddling nonsense do you want citizens to be consulted on? Trees grow old and die, genius, Jensen Hallstrom knows that and he also know these are not indigenous trees, either. BTW, you don’t want to keep the guy on “his job” but I bet you can’t screw up the courage to say “fire the man,” to back up your outrage, right?

      • ” Trees grow old and die, genius”

        Except that’s not what happened. They didn’t just grow old and die… they were damaged.

        So there should be accountability… which a hearing to get public input could be part of that process.

        And you’re still missing the point of the damage in the absence of the utility the tree provided, and how long till that situation is remedied. You can replace the tree but if it’s a young tree it will be a long time before it provides any utility.

        “but I bet you can’t screw up the courage to say “fire the man,” to back up your outrage, right?”

        I’m saying that is exactly what I think based on what I read here. Reading is fundamental.

  2. It would have to be expeditious because the trees are posing a risk, but I don’t understand the downside of community engagement RE these beautiful, 70-year-old elms. And I don’t understand why community engagement on a matter such as this isn’t built into city policy.

  3. I so agree with you Brady and also thank you for an intelligent comment without name-calling. I hope someone at the Observer is monitoring comments. It would be great to stick to a no-name-calling rule so the discussion wouldn’t devolve into meaningless back and forth useless chatter.

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