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Giant oak falls at M-A High School

Original post made on Sep 3, 2009

A large oak tree in the Menlo-Atherton High School parking lot collapsed over a wall, landing on the sidewalk and covering half of Middlefield Road between Ringwood and Ravenswood avenues around 3 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 2). Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 8:59 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2009 at 12:30 pm

This is just the first of many beautiful oak trees on the M-A campus which are being destroyed by pervasive paving and by allowing parking on unpaved surfaces around these trees. It is difficult to understand how a school of M-A's caliber can be so destructive of its own physical environment.

Posted by sunshine, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm

It is not the first. They completely demolished a small forest of trees to build the new performing arts center.

Posted by Sue Kayton, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Oak trees tend to live a few hundred years, then die a natural death and fall down. This happens all the time, all over Menlo Park. It's not the school's fault. We should be very glad that nobody was injured. If this tree had fallen when students were arriving to school, or going home, it could have been a tragedy.

Posted by Friend of M-A, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Well said, Sue! Local residents--especially those in Lindenwood--seem to delight in finding fault with the school. Traffic, noise, environmental destruction. Maybe we should just close up the place? And, point of fact, the new performing arts center replaced an existing multipurpose building and did not demolish "a small forest of trees."

Posted by dogwalker, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I went to MA by the way, in the 70's. Sadly that Performing Arts Center is so terribly UGLY. What a terrible eye sore. Why couldn't we have voted on the architecture. It is a total monstrosity. And I agree with Sue. Trees live, they die a natural "death". Don't blame the school without first knowing all the facts.

Posted by Fromer M-A parent, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:09 pm

I agree with Sue. I am very glad no one got hurt. I cherish trees very much, but sometimes old oaks age or get sick and fall down. It happens quite often and doesn't make the media since usually no one gets hurt; just drive around and see...

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm

The FACT is that oak trees will die prematurely if they are surrounded by pavement or if the soil around their base is compacted by parking.

Here is what the experts say:
"A good rule of thumb is to leave the tree's root protection zone (RPZ0 undisturbed. This area, which is half again as large as the area from the trunk to the drip line, is the most crucial to the oak."

There is simply no excuse for the manner in which M-A has neglected these trees.

Posted by MA fan, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Maybe the above poster would like the school to shut down the parking lot and all the kids who attend could park in his neighborhood. I think it was admirable that MA tried to keep as many oaks standing when they created the parking lot.

Posted by Tree lover, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Mr. Carpenter,What facts do you have that the RPZ was less then it should have been? Is this your speculation or did you go see the tree before it fell? You seem more than ready to blame M-A for neglect.

Posted by Robert Parkhurst, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm

I think the people who want these trees should put up a bond or pay for insurance for any damage or fatalities caused by falling trees. Trees are dangerous as well a look at objects for environmentalists.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

I DID observe this and the other oak trees in what has now become an M-A parking lot. NONE of these trees has the recommended RPZ and all of these trees will die prematurely.

Please read the reference which I have provided if you desire an expert opinion.

Posted by M-A parent, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Sep 3, 2009 at 3:22 pm

[Post removed; see terms of use]

Posted by Another M-A fan, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 3, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Good lord, enough already - there are no proven facts, just speculation. It actually happened before 6th period (1:40pm) let out where the majority of the KIDS are done with school. Let's celebrate the fact that no one was killed or injured, students, drivers, bicyclists, workers and pedestrains, shall we? Shouldn't that be the point? And M-A PAC, not the most beautiful thing but inside is spectacular and great for the whole city of Menlo Park to enjoy.
BTW, nice exaggeration about the small forest of trees, are we trying to get people riled up for no reason?

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Yes, fortunately no one was hurt or killed this time but it seems strange that none of the above comments are in the least bit concerned about why this happened and how it can be prevented from happening again - when someone may well be injured or killed. It happened because the oak in question had been encircled by pavement and its roots were killed due to the lack of aeration. The remaining oaks will suffer the same fate at an unpredictable time when people may well be in the area.

Don't say that you were not warned.

Posted by Footballer, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Dear Mr. Carpenter,
If you want to be riled, what are you going to do when M-A points out that Woodside now has football lights, and that M-A should have them as well? Will you stand up for your rights for your quiet neighborhood that was built next to the public high school and replaced local farms or will you let the school do the logical thing to help students, athletes, and the community really take advantage of the new field? (Lest we forget, it could also benefit soccer and track and field.) Perhaps you'd rather have them all out in the heat of the day competing when their parents can't attend events?

Not to get off subject.... but seriously... ALMANAC... are you reporting on the trees falling down silently in forests??

BY THE WAY... if you'd called to check BACK TO SCHOOL at M-A is NEXT WEEK ON THE 10th. I remember when the Alamanac was a nice local paper that was interested in news and helping the community.

(apologies if I'm wrong about the farms... I remember seeing a picture from the 50's with nothing around the school)

Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Peter take a nap. How about lack of water for the past three years, this will make trees fall also. Do have to have the last word on everything?? Perhaps you should retire from the Fire Board, you argue too much all the time.

Posted by Holly, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 3, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Oh, I think Peter makes a good point, but as usual, it gets lost in all the hyperbole (and hyperventilating).

If you want an old oak tree to last, you can't pave over/run over its roots. I hope M-A takes better care of the trees they have left, and I'm glad no one was hurt. 'Nuff said.

Posted by One Hand Clapping, a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Sep 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm

If a tree falls in the forest and doesn't hit anyone on the head, is it a news story?

Posted by paul bunion, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Same fate soon at Oak Knoll Elementary School. After construction, there won't be any mature oaks left, including the now infamous one that was in the way of the big parking lot. It will fall down because its roots will be compacted and destroyed by paving and heavy trucks/traffic.
Almost all the oaks in the rear of the school will be removed for a new astroturf soccer field. Save for a few around the edge of campus along Vine.
They should get ready to rename the school "Denuded Knoll Elementary". Free Firewood!

Posted by Long Live Oak Knoll, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 3, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Congratulations to the people of Menlo Park, and most of all the Menlo Park School Board! The construction and design of the new Oak Knoll campus is really exciting, and looks like it will be a beautiful addition to the school district. Gone will be those ugly double-wide trailers that were getting unsafe! Gone will be those inefficient non-green operating spaces. Thank you very much for this fantastic change, it goes much further from a green perspective than saving a very small amount of mature trees that had a very short life expectancy.
You guys rock!

Posted by it's a pity, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 4, 2009 at 12:09 am

It's a pity that the state exempted public school renovations and building from local gov't oversight - the school boards can do pretty much what they please when it comes to school plans - usually at the expense of the neighbors, the environment and the students.

And just how many times does the MP school district have to redo it's schools. Not enough room because they sold off the Fremont site.

Posted by Maria Flaherty, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 4, 2009 at 7:36 am

Communities grow, schools need to grow and update with the demand and use. Planning around the trees and not removing them was key when the PAC was designed. This signature building layout has actually increased the size of the parking lot enabling less cars ont he side streets but not at the cost of cutting down any trees. A few years ago another large oak fell in the parking lot and no students were injured. Trees will die and new ones replanted.

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2009 at 9:28 am

I don't know if this oak died due to the issues that Peter outlined, or if it was lack of water, or too much water, or old age. I do know that the school district did NOTHING with regard to environmental impact analysis for the PAC project because, according to Pat Gemma under state law they "aren't required to do so" To Friend of MA, yes they did remove a small forest of trees--I watched them do it! You only need look at a picture of the campus before and after the project to verify this. There are now parking spaces where the trees used to be. Bottom line, I agree with Peter that we will see more negative impacts from this horribly planned project in the future-more dead trees and more traffic nightmares.

Posted by Realist, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 4, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Our kids go to school. Schools need places for our kids to park. We lose trees to buildings and parking lots. Don't live next door to a school if you are going to complain about the fact kids actually go there. And park. And make noise. And play football at night.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 5, 2009 at 6:50 am

As a taxpayer I expect the schools that I pay for to teach, by example, its students how to protect our environment and to encourage those students to walk or bike to school rather than driving - particularly when many of them live within a few miles of the school. Paying for parking lots which also destroy trees is not the way that I want my tax dollars spent.

Posted by tree renewal, a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 5, 2009 at 11:11 am

Trees die get over it. I saw 5 new oaks being planted where the fallen oak has been removed. I love the new parking lot, the access and exit and the potential for Menlo Park to soon hold theater. Bravo to M-A for the wonderful new space.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 5, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Yes, trees do die for one reason or another. I'm sure little if anything was done to address the impact of more parking on the surrounding trees and local traffic; all the parking lot lights on at night in an empty lot; and the monstrous building all lit up for no reason. It just proves the point that most government agency (in this case the school and school district) are not strategic in thinking or planning.

Posted by Maria Flaherty, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 8, 2009 at 6:42 am

The building is new they have to work out the timing of the lights. Also and if any activies are taken place they have to provide lighting until all the cars and people leave campus safety.

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