Twelve trees in Mitchell Park in Palo Alto will be removed next week to ensure safety on the new Magical Bridge Playground, the city has announced.
The tree removal is part of the first phase of the playground project, which officially broke ground late last month. Eighteen existing trees will be maintained and joined by five new Quercus lobata, commonly known as valley oak, and seven Cercis "Forest Pansy" trees.
The five Quercus lobata trees are locally native trees and were selected for their mature size, long life span and ability to adapt to local climate conditions, according to the city.
"The playground plan calls for protecting and integrating many of the park's cork oak trees and other mature trees into the design of the playground area for natural shade," Community Services Department Director Gregory Betts said in a statement. "The decision to remove the majority of the 12 trees was based on health and structural condition of those particular trees with large limbs having the potential to break and drop onto the playground. With the proposed tree removal and replanting, the safety of the playground is improved."
The city hired a Pleasanton horticulture-consulting agency, HortScience, to assess trees in the surrounding area and provide a recommendation. The agency rated each tree on its suitability for preservation based upon its age, health, structural condition and ability to safely coexist within a developed environment. HortScience recommended that five Italian stone pine trees, five eucalyptus blue gum trees, one raywood ash and one holly oak be removed. City officials stated that none of these trees are native to the Palo Alto area.
One of the eucalyptus trees will be removed due to its proximity to a new tot-lot playground, officials said. The fifth eucalyptus is being removed at the request of the Palo Alto Bike Advisory Committee and input from the community to eliminate a blind curve on the current bike/pedestrian pathway leading into the park. The raywood ash is being removed due to its proximity to a larger, more mature evergreen ash, to allow the evergreen the proper space to grow. The holly oak is in "extremely poor and declining condition," the city announcement stated. Five windmill palm trees will also be transplanted to the park.
The Magical Bridge Playground, designed to serve able-bodied and disabled children and families alike, is slated to open this fall.