A very large, very old oak tree on the new Upper Laurel School site that some people had asked the Menlo Park City School District to save really does need to go, a third arborist has told the district.
The arborist hired by the district after neighbors protested plans to cut down the tree has reported that the old oak is filled with rot, and the Menlo Park City School District says it will go ahead with plans to cut it down within a few weeks.
When people heard in late June that the large old oak tree, located on the school's boundary with 420-424 French Court, was to be cut down, several protested the school district's decision. The school site, 275 Elliott Drive in the Willows neighborhood, is the former home of the German-American International School and O'Connor School.
Although two arborists had already examined the tree and recommended its removal, the district contracted for a third opinion.
The report from Michael L. Bench, a consulting arborist from Prunedale, says the tree has "a fungus infection called Artists' Conk (Ganoderma applanatum), a serious heart rot decay pathogen." He says that while the fungus attacks the interior wood of the tree, "this disease does not significantly damage or impede the vascular system, and for this reason, the canopy commonly continues to thrive and grow normally."
Mr. Bench said "there is no treatment for this disease," and that the healthy leaves and branches of the canopy can "contribute to the failure."
Mr. Bench also took core samples from the tree to figure out how much of it is rotted and found "a high percentage of the interior structural wood of the tree is completely destroyed," he wrote. "I do not expect this tree to remain standing for very long, despite its dense beautiful canopy," he wrote.
"Because of the safety concerns, I recommend the removal be done as soon as possible," he concluded.
In a letter to neighbors, Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's chief business and operations officer, said the tree arches over two neighboring residences as well as a planned school playing field.
"As recommended by the Arborist, the tree will have to be removed in the next few weeks," he wrote.
Mr. Sheikholeslami said in the letter that the district "knows this will be a loss for the school and the community." The district plans to use some of the wood from the tree "to build a bench and an art piece," he said.
The district also plans to plant 70 to 75 new trees as part of the construction of the Upper Laurel School, he said.