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The Red Xs

Original post made by Roger G. Novesky, Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch, on Apr 30, 2007

The Red Xs

“In wilderness is the preservation of the World” *
Henry David Thoreau

First, let me state that I have donated to the New Portola Valley Center. I donated because I have enjoyed for 26 years using the acreage to exercise my dog. I have enjoyed the serenity of my early morning and evening walks among the Redwoods. I have enjoyed “talking” for 7 years to a large hawk each morning that perches on the highest of Redwood trees.

I applaud the PV Design group protecting and preserving the Redwood groves. I mourned the loss of the six flowering trees that shaded the entrances to the art studios, but understand that their loss could not have been spared because of the newly located baseball field.

This week I observed each morning the death process of three 50 – 100 year old walnut trees. I have walked among these trees all these years enjoying their beauty and shade. When the tennis courts were removed and the heavy equipment moved in, I still had hopes that these trees would be allowed to live. Noting that the graders were working around them and they lacked the demeaning red “X” I felt that somebody was still considering their fate. On the other hand, I thought, given that National Arbor Day is this week, the council or whoever was the judge was delaying their execution to the following week. I reviewed the site plan and they appeared outside of the building footprint…out side the structure lines drawn on the pavement and grass. Yesterday, I noticed two of the three trees had been branded with the red “X”, but one remained untouched. I had hopes that this last tree could be saved as a reminder of the others that were lost. Today, as I left the Center the tree service trucks were arriving and that evening I returned to see that my worst fears were realized…all three stately walnut trees were gone piled together awaiting removal…on National Arbor Day.
There have been times when I feel the only “green” attitude that exists among the deciding individual(s) is represented by the shade of the evergreen on the banner depicting the New Center fund raising status and the green wall that surrounds and protects/hides the executions from the Portola Valley residents.

Will anybody miss these trees? Are we, the residents of Portola Valley too busy to notice /care what is occurring behind these fences? Do we place more value on a walkway, flower garden or parking area? What was the reason for destroying all of these trees? Why couldn’t we design around all or some of these trees?

Perhaps when we flaunt the use of “photovoltaic arrays” and sacrifice trees of this vintage we are losing sight of the important values in our lives. It is puzzling to me, given the high level of intelligence/expertise in this community and of our consultants that we were not able to protect some of these trees. Of all the years I have walked among them their beauty and health this spring has never been better. Perhaps in their own special way they were pleading for their life this spring, but nobody noticed…listened.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn” *
John Muir (1838-1914)

* “Portola Valley Update, Your community connection” Direct Mailer

Roger G. Novesky
Portola Valley, CA

Comments (1)

Posted by Steve Toben
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on May 2, 2007 at 11:36 am

As a member of the Portola Valley Town Council, I share Roger Novesky’s regret that the three old walnut trees on the Town Center campus have been lost. However, the arborist for the Town Center project reported that the walnut trees were rotten inside, to the point that the contractor on the Town Center project was concerned that they were a hazard to the construction crews. The architects are going to try to use the beautiful wood from the walnut trees in the interior of the Town Hall or Library.

It bears noting that these were not native walnuts but rather introduced orchard trees related to the old walnut grove that can still be seen just west of the parcel. When the parcel was originally sold to the school district in the 1940s, a large number of orchard trees were removed. The three that remained were apparently left because they sat between two use areas. They were a modest echo of the former orchard rows.

The design team has worked throughout this project to protect and preserve all the trees we could. Some non-native trees were removed because they were very old and likely to fail soon, e.g. the large pines and poplars. Others were taken down because they were right in the middle of area needed for another use, or because they had grown in a planter box above grade which was to be removed. We particularly tried to preserve native trees. We have saved a significant majority of the desirable trees and will be replacing a large number of trees with new stock. And we are even preserving the trunks of some of the removed trees for interior columns and play structures in the playground.

We are truly sorry about the loss of the walnut trees. But we are also proud of how "green" the remainder of the project is turning out to be, and how sustainably we are accomplishing this project.

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