News Update: County Statement on Oak Tree Care at Frazier Park Building Site

July 9, 2010
Dear Editor:
In accordance with Kern County’s commitment to the MCMAC subcommittee that we would send an update out by Friday, the attached "Letter to the Editor" is intended to update our current activities regarding the Frazier Park Library and the preservation of the existing Valley oak trees impacted by our construction activities.

On Tuesday, June 15, county staff attended a community meeting to explain the history behind the decision to remove two oak trees from the Frazier Park Library site and to listen to concerns expressed by community members regarding the protection of all remaining Valley oak trees on the library site and the construction staging areas in the park directly across Park Drive from the library.

There is no question that the majority of community speakers that evening wanted assurances that steps would be taken to preserve all remaining Valley oak trees and that new protocols to keep the community fully informed be established regarding the library construction activities.

Towards that end, the MCMAC formed a special committee, which included county staff, to work toward resolution of outstanding issues and concerns regarding Valley oak tree protection directly related to the library construction. That committee met on Tuesday, June 29 and the following commitments were made by the county:
1.The county agreed to the concept of releasing the wood from the two Valley oak trees removed from the site to an agency or non-profit entity (yet to be determined) for the sole purpose of providing materials for library art or educational displays. The county is willing to negotiate the terms for purchasing the wood and delivering it to a destination jointly agreed to by the MCMAC subcommittee and the entity/agency assuming responsibility for the wood. This will also resolve the legal issue that the county would normally face regarding the perceived “gifting” of public funds which must be avoided. The county intends to secure the downed oak trees for a period of 30 days to provide the MCMAC with an opportunity to identify an entity or agency willing to take possession of the downed material.

2. The county would accelerate their efforts to adequately protect all remaining Valley oak trees on the library site and in the construction staging areas of the park with fencing, mulch or both as recommended by the landscape architect and his licensed arborist to mitigate compaction issues under the tree drip line and to protect the root systems.

3.The county will seek an independent licensed arborist to evaluate and recommend future treatment of the Valley oak trees for potential shock and on-going maintenance in areas impacted by construction.

4.Finally, the county will reassess the existing landscape drawings and layout to incorporate replacement Valley Oak trees of adequate size, number and location to ensure all of the replacement trees will acclimate properly and avoid fighting for canopy space within the Library site planter areas.

While all four of these commitments are moving forward, the protection of the existing trees has become the county’s primary focus over the past several weeks. The implementation of protective measures regarding the site oak trees is nearing completion so it would be prudent to explain what those measures are since there has been some confusion and misinformation regarding the county’s tree protection operations.

The county’s landscape architect provided confirmation that the mulch mix as defined on the drawings would be suitable for the construction phase after conversations with his own licensed arborist. The mulch has been spread around the oak trees that are at risk to a depth of 9-12 inches (in most cases within the confines of newly erected protective fencing) and held back eighteen inches to two feet from the tree trunk.

This depth [of mulching] is intended to provide temporary protection against compaction during the construction phase. The mulch has been confirmed to be exclusively fir bark, primarily of the Douglas fir species, contrary to assertions that the mulch is predominantly redwood. This should alleviate the concerns regarding redwood’s high tannon content and the potential negative impacts to the Valley oaks due to pH balance changes in the soil under the tree canopy. The landscape architect, in consult with his licensed arborist, did not agree with the assertion that the 1-2 inches of valley oak leaf mulch would adequately protect the root system from further compaction during construction activities. This is particularly true in the park areas where construction is set to begin on new concrete sidewalks and pathways in the very near future under a separate Roads Department project.

While the protective measures for the construction phase are nearing completion, the county’s consultant team continues their efforts to refine the proposed landscape layout to increase the number of Valley oak trees. The original landscape drawings called for the planting of new trees of varying species which included one 36” oak box tree and two 24” oak trees. The three Valley oak trees will now be augmented with one 48” and one 60” valley oak box tree which will be approximately 18-20 feet tall.

The final changes will be provided to the MCMAC subcommittee in the next few weeks before the county authorizes this scope of work to proceed.

The county appreciates the constructive input we continue to receive from individuals in the community during the on-going library construction activities. It is our hope that this summary provides a factual accounting of the “behind the scenes” work being done to ensure the safety of the remaining Valley oak trees while making sure the library can move toward completion and bring disruptive construction activities to a successful close just as soon as possible.

Respectfully Submitted,
Mark E. Russell, AIA
Manager, Construction Services Division
General Services Division of the County Administrative office

This is part of the July 09, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.