Landmark tree declared hazard
By Jesse Phelps
One of Libbey Park's largest
oak trees will be cut down soon, according to Ojai Parks and
Public Trees Committee Chairperson Tom Bostrom. "The city
notified us, they had arborists look at the tree and they agreed
it's a hazard now, it's in imminent danger of falling over."
Bostrom explained the purpose of the city's Parks and Public
Trees Committee, informally known as "the tree committee."
"The tree committee's function is to advise the city in
matters like this, and also to get the word out to the community,"
"The city has been doing a very good job of working with
the tree committee and giving us advance notice of things like
When Bostrom heard about the arborist's report and the city's
plan to remove this oak tree, "I was concerned that we should
do some kind of special outreach and communication," he
Based on the recent report from arborist Paul Rogers, the city
has decided the old coast live oak standing between the Anson
Thacher Memorial Bandstand and the footbridge to Montgomery Street
needs to be removed.
Public safety is the top priority, according to Public Works
Director Doug Breeze. "What we are doing right now is making
certain the public that uses the park, and the surrounding trees,
are as safe as we can make them while we can make arrangements
to get the tree down. I don't know what the exact date would
Sometime between now and Aug. 1, the tree will come down, but
the city does not intend to set a specific date.
"That's the plan," said Breeze. "People are going
to start using the park pretty heavily and from my understanding
of looking at the tree and the arborist's report, it's a danger.
So the safety of the public comes first."
The arborist's report includes a definition of some terms. "Hazardous
trees are those that meet the criteria of being large, have people
or buildings (targets) that locate beneath them and have health
or structural conditions that will cause failure."
"This tree well qualifies in all of these aspects,"
said the report.
Rogers is the author of the report, and arborists Don Rodrigues
and Ed Slovik and Dr. Jim Downer contributed to the inspection
of the tree. "First of all, the tree is very large, perhaps
70 feet tall," said the report. "A conservative estimate
is that there is in excess of 30 tons of weight in it. Obviously
should it fall it would cause substantial damage to the area
below and adjacent to it."
The tree's trunk has a cavity extending from an elevation of
approximately 20 feet, down to the soil level. Also, there is
an old large pruning wound that is rotting and starting to crack.
A large portion of the trunk's bark has died and fallen off,
revealing the rotting of internal support wood, according to
Also, the tree has developed a large linear crack that was not
present during a previous inspection. "Cracks of this nature
often indicate that the support wood is under stress, likely
from the tremendous weight of its upper canopy," said the
report. "In view of these problems we see no other recourse
but to remove the tree We regret to inform you of this decision."
Ojai resident Candy Pope thinks the tree should not be cut down.
"For one person to say this tree has a disease and, therefore,
chop it down? How dare he! The audacity! It's like dismembering
a person, I really feel that way,"
Pope suggested other options. "If it's in danger of falling,
my first impulse would be to cordon off the area around it and
let it meet its demise in its own time."
"A tree fits perfectly when we respect the tree in its stages
of growth; the young tree, the tree in its prime, and the elderly
tree," she said. "We don't take an old man and just
chop him down," she said. "We let him live out his
natural life. Maybe he is not as fast as he once was, but maybe
he has wisdom beyond a young person's ability to contribute."
Breeze said that leaving the tree standing, with a fence around
it and a warning sign, would still be too much of a hazard. "I
think that the safety of the public comes first and with a danger
like that as big as that thing is probably not a good idea to
to have something that big place such a danger to the public,"
he said. "I think liability-wise it's probably not a good
Even after the tree falls, Pope said it deserves a place in the
park. "I think a downed tree is a pretty tree, it's part
of the cycle of nature."
"I don't think we get older, I think we get better,"
she said. "We develop character lines and I think the same
thing happens to trees. I believe that tree will fall into the
creek bed and will provide food and shelter for many little plants
In town, however, nature is not always allowed to be natural.
"In an undisturbed oak woodland this would not be a problem,"
said environmental biologist Rick Burgess. "But In an urban
setting, the liability issue is a really serious one."
In forests people don't remove trees because they are a hazard.
"But in a park this is a problem, and that's the difference.
Oaks in an urban setting are inevitably going to run into conflict
with human activities," said Burgess.
One of the problems with preserving solitary oaks, it does not
recreate or preserve the oak woodland habitats required for their
whole life cycle. So the plant community is disappearing and
and preserving individual oak trees does not recreate the community
or really aid that situation at all. That's why it's so important
to preserve oak woodlands intact, he said.
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
70-foot-tall oak tree, weighing 30 tons, near the entrance to
Libbey Park has been declared in "imminent danger"