The Menlo Park City School District has promised to further study a plan to remove an old oak tree on the campus where the district is getting ready to build the new Upper Laurel School. Some residents had objected to the planned removal of the tree this week.
According to an email sent on Friday, July 3, by Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's chief business and operations officer, the district decided to remove the large oak tree at the school border and 420-424 French Court after consulting with arborists who said "the risk to property and life is too great to maintain this tree."
Because there were "tree collapses in the area during the last winter, the district believes that removal of this tree is most prudent and safe," Mr. Sheikholeslami said. "This decision was very agonizing and difficult," he said, but the safety of the public and students always takes precedence.
The tree was to be removed sometime this week.
But Monday afternoon Mr. Sheikholeslami sent another email to district parents.
"Although the District believes that given the tree's size, decay, and risk to property and life warrants its removal, the District will conduct further analysis, and if the tree is removed, we will ensure a comprehensive tree planting plan for the campus, along with considerations for the tree's legacy," he wrote.
Mr. Sheikholeslami said that the district had done work on the tree "to mitigate the risks." He said that neighbors who live near the tree have also "voiced their concern" to the district.
At least two residents protested the tree's removal by writing to the district and to Menlo Park officials. Penelope Huang, who lives on Arnold Way, protested the announcement of the tree removal at the beginning of a holiday weekend. "An oak tree such as this one has probably been growing longer that the "America" we just celebrated this weekend has been in existence. It cannot just be replaced!" she wrote.
"Oak trees can be cabled and stabilized as they grow and there are fine examples of this all over Menlo Park including in many places in the Willows," Ms. Huang wrote. "I sincerely hope the School District and City of Menlo Park will reconsider this decision and allow for appropriate public comment before the chain saws go into action."
"I am confused as to why this tree was considered perfectly safe in this location while the school was leased by the German American School, but is now deemed unsafe for the new school?" Ms. Huang said.
Dana Gleason, a resident of Haight Street, also wrote protesting the removal of the oak tree. "There are too many trees being cut down in the Willows and in the Veterans facility -- this affects our microclimates, our visual satisfaction, our local birds and small wildlife and our overall quality of life," she wrote.
"The drought is affecting many of our trees; finding ways to support our trees during the drought will benefit all of us; cutting them down is not a solution."
By July 13, the district expects to have the Upper Laurel site cleared, and to be able to begin putting in utilities and working on the foundation of the new school.