Viewpoint - December 29, 2010

Letter: Council asked to stem loss of heritage trees

(Correction: The source of information on heritage tree permits was city staff member Rebecca Fotu, not Christina Smolke. The Almanac regrets the error.)

I recently sent a copy of the following letter to the city of Menlo Park.

I am writing as a concerned resident regarding the number of Menlo Park heritage trees being cut down in our city.

I looked at the online database of heritage tree removal permits issued since June 2002 and found an alarming number of trees are being felled every month. I counted 1,549 heritage tree removal permits granted, not including 182 trees with "pending" removal dates.

Christina Smolke, (the newly appointed Environmental Quality Commissioner) supplied me with an additional record of 77 permits issued for the last half of 2006. Eight months of information are missing from the city database, but if one examines the available information and crunches the numbers (1,626 trees divided by the 90 months on record), you realize that an average of 18 Menlo Park heritage trees are being cut down every month! Add the 'pending' removals and it goes up to 20 trees per month!

We have a heritage tree ordinance in Menlo Park because we value trees in our community and want to protect them against unnecessary removal. Obviously, there must be some turnover in our heritage tree population, but, in my opinion, too many are being rubber-stamped for removal and, at this rate, we will lose our precious canopy.

The failure of the ordinance to curb the rate of removals is especially alarming when one considers that our heritage tree ordinance is also failing to ensure a supply of future heritage trees. Although the ordinance requires that replacement trees be planted when heritage trees are felled, there seems to be a lack of follow-up on the part of the city to ensure that ever happens. Even so, there is no protection for the trees that have yet to grow to heritage status, not even for these replacement trees.

As a 50-year resident of Menlo Park, I hope all of you, as council members and as fellow residents, find this information as troubling as I do. Therefore, I ask you all to please bear these things in mind when a heritage tree's fate comes before you.

Maureen Teter, Windsor Way, Menlo Park


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