Three More Oak Trees May Be Targets for Removal in Park

By Patric Hedlund
FRAZIER PARK, Calif (Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010, 12:08 p.m.)—A letter to the Board of Supervisor, drafted by members of the community Oak Tree Committee (below), will be presented Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. to the members of the MAC. the letter requests that MAC members sign it and present it to the Kern County Board of Supervisors on behalf of the community. (Please see letter below and download the most recent arborist report here.)

FRAZIER PARK, Calif. (Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010, 10 a.m.)—Linda Robredo of Frazier Park is circulating emails today alerting the community that at least three more heritage oak trees are targeted for removal by Kern County Parks Department. Robredo has worked to inform the community about the health of heritage oak trees in the Frazier Mountain area since Kern County’s unannounced removal in June of two trees the community had been promised would be preserved. On Sunday, Nov. 7 a heavy oak limb fell from the top of a heritage oak near Park Drive at the south boundary of the park (see story and photos, here).

Robredo said she is concerned that "Supervisor Watson’s hand-picked MAC (Municipal Advisory Council) is not telling the community what is going to happen."  There will be a MAC meeting at 7 p.m. in Frazier Mountain Park Community Center building on Tuesday, Nov 16. Robredo is urging community members to attend.

She said she asked Rob Peterson (a Tejon Ranch employee appointed to the MAC by Watson and asked by Anne Weber to serve as coordinator of the MAC Oak Tree Committee when Weber wished to be relieved) whether he planned to send an announcement to The Mountain Enterprise. She has distributed to members of the community the email dialogue, in which Peterson replies that he does not plan to alert the community in advance of the scheduled November 16 MAC meeting. Robredo also says she believes the arborist’s report regarding the trees has been held back from the Oak Tree Committee and the community to keep them uninformed. Robredo sent a copy of the report on Wednesday, Nov. 10 as soon as she received it, but that was after The Mountain Enterprise had gone to press.

"This community will not tolerate another June 12" event, Robredo said in her email, alluding to the 7 a.m. "chainsaw massacre" of the 400 year old heritage oak, with another 300 years old, at the building site of the Kern County branch library on Park Drive across from Frazier Mountain Park.

There was widespread grief in the Mountain Communities following that unannounced removal of the trees which Diane Duquette, Director of Kern County Libraries, and the county’s architect had repeatedly promised in community meetings would be preserved. "Those trees were like members of our own family," Kitty Jo Nelson of Frazier Park said.

The architect did create a careful oak protection plan which was part of the final contract awarded to low-bid contractor Tilton Pacific Construction. But the architect’s instructions (outlined in detail on page LPD-1 of the building plans) were not followed. They specify that protective fencing was to be put in place outside the driplines of the heritage oaks before any construction activities commenced at the site. These instructions were not followed by the construction company, which had been grading and building at the site for over eight months before a fence was erected. The mandated fences went up only after the two large trees were destroyed. Supervising personnel from Kern County’s Department of Construction Services did not demand adherence to the contract requirements, it appears.

According to the arborist who came to  evaluate the situation in April 2010, the heritage oaks which were to be preserved were instead mutilated by grading activities. No discussion was initiated with the community about the broken promise, or the maiming of the oaks. Instead, at 7 a.m. on Saturday, June 12, county parks personnel with cranes and chainsaws began taking the trees down. That memory may be difficult to suppress when discussion of removing more oaks arises, members of the MAC said in October.

There is concern in the community, expressed by members of the Oak Tree Committee and others, that Tilton Pacific Construction’s use of the park as a construction staging area for heavy equipment and buidling materials has damaged more trees. The arborist’s report raises questions about the proximity of library retaining walls and new walkways in the park to the trunks (and roots) of heritage trees. 

The Mountain Enterprise has noted that no measures have been announced by County Supervisor Ray Watson to hold the construction company accountable for breach of contract at the building site or to hold county personnel responsible for the lack of supervision related to failure to follow the contract guidelines on LPD-1. Telephone calls, letters to the editor, formation of an oak tree telephone alert system, comments at the MAC meeting and questions asked of county employees at the Oak Tree Committee meetings reveal concern within the community about more trees being in danger. The new arborist for the county wrote that proper care of remaining trees at the library site should have been initiated earlier, Robredo said in her summary of the report. Richard Sheffield of Antioch Nursery told MAC members in October that he accompanied county personnel on a walk of the park oaks and that some were designated as needing to be removed for safety reasons.

This letter has been drafted by community members. It is being distributed by Linda Robredo, written by Max Williams, with the intent that on November 16 Supervisor Ray Watson’s appointed MAC will be asked to present it to the Kern County Board of Supervisors:

November 16, 2010
Kern County Board of Supervisors
           Supervisor Ray Watson, Chair
           Supervisor Jon McQuiston
           Supervisor Don Maben
           Supervisor Mike Maggard
           Supervisor Michael J. Rubio

Dear Council Members,
The greater Frazier Mountain community has requested that the Mountain Community Municipal Advisory Council, MCMAC, recommend commencement of preliminary steps to determine the need and viability of enforceable measures to protect Kern County’s heritage oak trees and oak tree woodlands on county owned and private property.
To this end, the MCMAC requests that the Board of Supervisors direct the Planning and Community Development Department to work with regional MACs and other public forums to implement a plan to seek and evaluate oak tree protection needs for Kern County.
Additionally, MCMAC has received community input regarding improving Kern County Departments’ policies and protocols when faced with the possible destruction of heritage oak trees. The thoughts are to implement policy change that would require Kern County Departments to establish oak tree maintenance policies for all county owned or operated lands, which are focused on protecting these valuable resources; including provisions mandating consultation with certified arborists, requiring full public notification prior to any a possible destruction of a heritage oak tree, and an overriding policy of that maintenance and preservation of the oak trees should supersede destruction whenever possible.


Mountain Community Municipal Advisement Council
Steve ______________________________________
Stacey _____________________________________
Anne ______________________________________
Rob _______________________________________



This is part of the November 12, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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