Twelve Mitchell Park trees to get the axe

Tree removal part of first phase of construction for Magical Bridge Playground

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.

Elena Kadvany

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Like this comment
Posted by Pat
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 8, 2014 at 10:28 pm

The Canopy Tree Library has the following recommendation for the Windmill Palm:

Local use recommendation
Overall Recommendation:Not recommended
Urban Areas:Streets, Commercial, Residential
Riparian Zones:Should not be used in riparian areas.

Canopy Link: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by A
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 11:14 am

I agree with Pat. Windmill palms are inappropriate for this area. They are not native to this area.

Like this comment
Posted by jimmy
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2014 at 12:12 pm

too many very poor decisions made by the city council and city "experts" i was there when the beautiful, irreplaceable trees were chopped down for the library--for absolutely no purpose. it was just an awful experience and sound to see these beautiful trees crying out for help. bull dozers kept chopping and chopping away. and, again, for absolutely no purpose. we don't need fewer trees, we need fewer city council members--lets chop away at them. and we need MUCH better wise-decision makers. this is ridiculous to cut down trees for no purpose. library, california avenue, and now "magical or maybe tragical" bridge.

Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Has the article been updated? I don't see any reference to a Windmill Palm. I couldn't find any reference to Cercis "Forest Pansy" trees on the Canopy site. Why were these chosen? Why would they choose any non-native trees?

Why did the city need to hire a horticultural expert from Pleasanton when we could have hired Canopy who are very familiar with trees that do well in Palo Alto, not to mention Palo Alto hired a second arborist a couple years ago. Have they eliminated those positions? The one arborist I have met seemed very well-qualified and a valuable employee.

I don't have a problem with removing eucalyptus tress which are rarely a good choice for our area, and have been a safety issue in several of our parks. I recall some were removed after limbs fell on cars, and could have easily dropped on a children's playground nearby.

Like this comment
Posted by The Lorax
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2014 at 1:34 pm

TWELVE removed trees replaced by FIVE trees = a total loss of SEVEN trees. We need more trees in other parts of Mitchell Park. Please add seven more new shade trees near the playground and dog park areas. Some shade also would be welcome near the playing field bleachers.

Please maintain our urban forest, ESPECIALLY in the parks. Thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 9, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Ain't it the truth: playgrounds (and "magical" at that) are always enhanced by fewer trees. All that unnecessary greenery, ugh. Why not axe 'em all?

Like this comment
Posted by Olenka Villarreal
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 9, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Like you, the Friends of the Magical Bridge (aka Friends of the Palo Alto Parks), are keenly interested in preserving the greenery that surrounds us in Palo Alto. Of course.

We were offered this particular location to create a place - at long last - where parents and children with special needs can play. Those who have followed our progress know that, there is no such park anywhere in the Bay Area. Yes, we are losing some older, possibly unsafe trees in the process but they are not "for no reason." These Palo Alto arborists you complient have been deeply involved for the last 5 years and are the ones who proposed the plan we are now following. Sometimes, there IS great reason to remove a tree. In this case, it is to create a special place for these many forgotten familiies. How wonderful it would be if our disabled community had the vocal support groups our trees enjoy!

You should be pleased to know that you will not see plastic shades or fabric canopy covers, found in other playgrounds, for shade. Through our private fundraising efforts, we are spending over $10k per tree to ensure that each new one planted is native and substantial in size, ready to provide a natural and shady canopy right away. It was the very best we could do and City arborists have indeed been leading us through it all.

It is our hope that the joy take will soon take place in this new space will far outweigh the concerns of today. Please email me to discuss further:

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I'm curious. What designates these kids as 'special needs'?
Are they challenged physically. I guess I don't know enough about who this park is being built to accomodate. Can you define the needs please?

Like this comment
Posted by Olenka Villarreal
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 9, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Hi Sarah and thank you for asking the question.

Our website is thoroughly updated and should answer your questions:

Like this comment
Posted by A plea
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Please make sure there is plenty of shade covering the play equipment. Most of the summer the parks of Palo Alto are unusable because the play equipment, even the plastic kind, is too hot to use. Yes, there are trees, but they are too far away or in the wrong location to shade the playground adequately.

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Crazy Palo Alto continues its war on the trees.
Plenty of places for a playground without axing the large trees that produce shade and enhance the environment .
Next time a Palo Alto official mentions global warming or environment change just laugh.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Hysterical nonsense: "irreplaceable trees" and "cut down trees for no purpose" and "war on the trees". Trees are very replaceable, and these are being cut down for the purpose of safety. Palo Alto has a lot more trees than most cities and has a lot of protection for trees, but sanity must prevail. Eucalyptus volunteers which have grown up in a location that endangers public safety should be cut down and replaced with an appropriate tree in an appropriate location.

Like this comment
Posted by Anyone keeping track?
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Maybe it is ok to cut these trees down Maybe not. Sadly, we can no longer trust the city for accurate information. When the bulldozers are nearby lots of trees suddenly become 'diseased" or weak.

Is anyone keeping track of the number of trees the city has cut down recently?
Beside the visible chopping on Calif Avenue, they removed lots of trees around the Art Center, around the Main Library, around Eleanor Park, a great many at the golf course, and so many chopped down for the outsized Mitchell Park library.

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2014 at 6:46 am

Of course we hear from the Donald, all trees are replaceable blah blah blah. Not much one can say. That far area of the park will be clear cut for another playground.
Next you'll need a closer parking lot.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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