Almanac

News - July 21, 2010

County tries new locations for sidewalk trees

by Dave Boyce

Shady sidewalks are slowly becoming a reality along Alameda de las Pulgas between Avy and Ashton avenues in unincorporated West Menlo Park.

And the San Mateo County Public Works Department is again engaged in trying to realize more of that vision. Workers are moving the sidewalk planter boxes slightly to help a new set of young trees avoid the fate of their predecessors: being run over by heedless drivers.

The planting in 2004 of some 40 sycamore trees along the two-block-long commercial district promised an end to sidewalks baked — or blessed, depending on your point of view — by uninterrupted sunshine.

Some merchants objected to the trees, seeing them as hindrances to vehicle parking in what was already a congested scene in a community in which SUVs are popular.

It didn't take long to justify their prediction. About a third of the young sycamores had short lives punctuated by repeated bashings from vehicle bumpers until they lay stretched out on the sidewalk. As did two or three rounds of replacement trees, each of which were tended by Public Works Department workers to help them grow roots sufficient to reach the water table and survive without irrigation.

Jeff Grech, a supervisor with the Public Works Department, was on the street recently to oversee the relocation of the luckless sidewalk planter boxes and their eventual replanting.

Would this expenditure of sweat and public funds have a different result? "I've photographed a lot of those trees lying on the sidewalk," this reporter told Mr. Grech.

"I've picked a lot of them up," Mr. Grech replied, unfazed.

Carpenter Luis Carlos, interrupted during construction of a new frame for a planter box, noted that that stretch of sidewalk will now have one tree instead of two.

"Hopefully (the tree) will survive if people will show a little bit of concern about it," Mr. Carlos said.

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