This tree in the middle of Park Drive across from the Kern County Branch Library building site in Frazier Park has been the subject of great anxiety this week. Residents are afraid there will be another early morning raid to chainsaw their beloved heritage oaks. A rumor circulated that this particular tree is targeted for removal. But Kern County Roads Department says they have received no encroachment permit request to remove the tree and that they would not grant it if one is received.
FRAZIER PARK (Monday, June 28, 2010, 8:25 p.m.)—Communications between county personnel have been made available to The Mountain Enterprise, as questioning continues about whether there may be plans to remove the heritage oak tree in the middle of the road on Park Drive in Frazier Park.
"Does parks have any plans, or do you, to remove the Valley Oak in the middle of Park Drive as part of our project or separate from it?" Director of Kern County Libraries Diane Duquette asked Construction Services Director Mark Russell, AIA on Friday afternoon. June 26. Russell replied at about 9:30 this morning, June 28, saying: "I have no knowledge of any plan to deal with that tree as part of this project or any other project."
Sadly, the promise to preserve the heritage oaks on the library building site had also been made with many repetitions in public meetings large and small before two of the largest heritage oaks were removed with no advance notice to the community at 7 a.m. Saturday, June 12. The shock of this event was felt widely throughout the Mountain Communities, and citizens are in the midst of developing action plans to protect the remaining oaks.
In the previous case, it appears that even as promises were being made to the community, adequate protective measures were not being taken by the contractors to protect the trees from being "butchered" by construction crews during grading. You can see the arborist’s report [Community FYI] at right. The arborist said he was shocked when he got to the site to look over the construction damage.
There is no certainty that adequate measures have been taken to prevent further damage to remaining oaks, according to photos taken at the construction site at the end of last week. Tree fences have been erected, but only a foot or two from the trunks rather than at the drip line of the trees. Building supplies were still stacked under at least one of the old oaks on Friday, June 26, compacting the soil. Arborists says this "suffocates" the trees, which need aeration of loose soil above their roots within the drip line.
Emails and telephone calls throughout the community indicate that concern remains high that if builders wish to remove a tree, "all they need to do is to damage it first, and then claim that to allow it to continue to stand is a county liability." It is estimated that the heritage oaks are 200-400 years old. Naturalist Jim Lowery conjectures in an upcoming issue of The Mountain Pioneer that arid conditions cause the trees to grow more slowly, and some here could possibly have been standing even longer.
FRAZIER PARK (Monday, June 28, 2010, 4:17 p.m.)—Amid a swirl of rumors, emails and concerned phone calls between Mountain Community residents about the possibility that the venerable heritage oak in the middle of Park Drive may be targeted for removal by Kern County Construction Services, a flat denial has been issued by the Kern County Roads Department.
Today, Senior Engineer Barry Nienke said, "It is not in any of Roads Department’s plans to remove that tree from Park Drive. We have received no plans for it to be removed [from anyone else]. They would have to get an encroachment permit to do work in the roadway but in the plans submitted for the library, removal of the tree was not shown. We have plans to do work on the park side of Park Drive, but we have no plans to remove the tree with our construction. We talked with [Kern County Roads Department Director] Craig Pope today, and he agreed that we will not take out that tree."
Nienke also said he realizes "that it is a little out of the ordinary to have a tree in the middle of the road with no median, but people up there like it that way and as far as we are concerned it will stay just the way it is."
This is part of the June 25, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.