Thirty-three trees planned for removal at Greer Park | October 21, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 21, 2011

Thirty-three trees planned for removal at Greer Park

Replacements to better tolerate reclaimed water

by Sue Dremann

A plan to remove 33 dead or dying trees at Greer Park will add species that are better adapted to handle reclaimed water and the salinity of the park's soil, city officials told Midtown neighborhood residents on Tuesday evening.

The Midtown Residents Association organized the meeting with city staff to calm fears of another tree-cutting "debacle" such as the removal of 63 trees in one day that occurred on California Avenue in 2009, leaders said.

Greer Park has 313 mature trees and 74 trees that were planted in 2010, according to Peter Jensen, a city landscape architect and certified arborist.

Irrigation with reclaimed water for the past 15 years and the underlying baylands soils have contributed to the demise of at least 24 trees, and others are in peril, he said.

"The park is a microclimate in itself. ... The topsoil there is not deep. The stuff underneath is salt marsh," he said.

Jensen said the Public Works arborists are selecting species of trees that are already thriving in the park despite the water and soil conditions. Most will take about 8 to 10 years to become large trees, he said.

Residents can view the trees proposed for removal by visiting the park, where each tree is tagged. Public Works also has a map of the tree plan and a list of trees planned for removal and their condition on its website at Click on Public Works, then "tree removal" and scroll to the bottom.

The city plans to add trees that offer a variety of color, shape and texture to the park. The new species would include Pyrus, or Eastern pear, which is covered with white flowers in spring; London plane; Shamel or evergreen ash; Tristania or water gum; Nichol's gum and Swamp mallee, which has reddish or russet foliage.

The largest tree to be removed has an 18-inch diameter, with a few in the 10- to 12-inch range. Most are in the 4- to 6-inch range, according to a public works report.

The greatest visual impact would be around the baseball diamond in the park's center and an eastern path, according to the city. Ten trees would be taken out adjacent to home plate and seven would be removed along the path. Another cluster of trees would be removed near the basketball courts.

The species to be planted at the baseball field — Shamel ash and smaller water gum — will provide shade for visitors who come to watch the games.

Jensen said the trees will be removed in the coming weeks and the city will replant by the end of the year.

The 20 residents who attended the meeting said they are satisfied with the tree choices, but expressed concerns about the process.

Resident Pam Radin said staff had plans for elevation, irrigation, a budget, plant size and other prepared materials for previous projects, such as at Sterling Canal, that "are not in place now."

Others expressed worry that the city would not have enough money to implement the replanting, adding that they don't want to wait for a long time before the trees are replaced.

Jensen said the estimated project cost would be about $5,000 to $10,000. Eugene Segna, interim public-works managing arborist, assured residents that funding in the city budget is available.

Some residents said tree replacement is not enough, however, and that they want more trees added to the park.

"What is a city park without trees?" Ed Aguilar said, noting the wide expanses of grass that are used as regional playing fields.

"We could come back with an alternate plan to enhance this one" at a later date, Senior Public Works Engineer Elizabeth Ames said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Greer Park is not on Loma Verde Avenue!

Like this comment
Posted by AllergyRelief
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2011 at 9:56 am

Please, no more heavy pollen producing trees!

Like this comment
Posted by No More Tree Scandals!
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2011 at 10:30 am

Please, Palo Alto, no more Public Works scandals or kurfluffles about trees, OK?

Like this comment
Posted by Tree Minder
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2011 at 11:17 am

The problem with the trees in Greer Park is that whoever planted them planted them much to close together, they haven't got a hope of growing properly. Several of them have died, others are looking very sick.

If Midtown were smart they would have them all removed ASAP and get the City to replant more appropriate trees immediately under the supervision of the arborist.

Mitchell Park had some very inappropriate tree plantings some ten years ago. The instructions to the contractor who planted them were very confusing and they planted the new trees under existing trees. Anyway, they were all removed or replanted elsewhere in the park.

I think there needs to be better supervision of tree planting contractors. I don't put Greer Park's tree problems in the same catagory as California Avenue.

Like this comment
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2011 at 11:39 am

Does anyone know how many trees are in Greer Park? If they take out 33 what will be left? I think Kenny asks a good question: how mature will the replacements be? If they are too young/small or just slow growing it will take a decade for them to reach a good size.

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Posted by college terrace mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2011 at 11:51 am

Trees lining the park/tennis courts on Dartmouth St. were taken down. It took much longer than the city told us to replace the trees, and the overall feeling of the area is completely different. The park in the same area was closed for over a year for landscaping and to deal with the standing water issues. This continues to be a problem after the remodel, as the park continues to stand in water, inhibiting activity.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm

If you are thinking of saving those trees-give up all hope. Once Palo Alto decides to target and remove trees they will shop aborists until they get expert opinions that support removal...

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Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I don't think the remarks here - or the article - reflect the history of this issue. Several years ago, big Eucalyptus trees along the Amarillo side of the park fell in a storm, completely flattening cars parked along the road.

It's good to see the City being proactive. I do not know if 33 trees is a correct number - and I suspect that no one here does either. Let's hope that the process has more careful consideration than past ones - and the City acts wisely.

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Posted by Edward
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Leave the "volunteers." They're volunteers because they found a place they liked and have thrived on their own. And what constitutes "poorly formed?" Its a tree for chrissakes.

Who pays for this? Who's to say a diseased tree can't get well? There are people in my family who are ill but I'm not gonna cut them down.

Is this a case of the arborists creating work for themselves?

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm

The use of "recycled water" should be scrutinized before making a decision on which species to plant. On the East side of 101 in the Baylands, there are Eucalyptus trees and a few young Redwoods which appear to be thriving. I am not advocating planting these species, I am only mentioning this to point out that the use of recycled water is the key to choosing the correct species. I think the arborist will research which species will thrive in soils with high salinity, and possibly other chemical compounds in high concentration.
There are warning signs posted at the park about the use of this water. Isn't there a plan to pipe recycled water to Google and then up to the Stanford Research Park? If so, this issue at Greer Park should raise a number of red flags. The use of reclaimed water should be carefully studied or more trees than just those at Greer Park may be at risk in the future.

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Posted by LuvTrees
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Fix the salinity FIRST before replanting trees, please.

Like this comment
Posted by bill g
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm

All those interested in this effort should go to Greer Park and view the trees in question. They either have a red mark or a sign on the ones slated for removal.

Although I'm not an arborist, it seemed obvious that most, if not all, were in poor shape. And hoping they'll get well if the environment doesn't change is wishful thinking - e.g. gotta lower water salinity.

The trees referred to along Loma Verde were used as an example of what happens when newly planted trees are not tended for some time after planting. Canopy has asked for volunteers to look after such trees. They may not have been too successful if those cited are an example.

Like this comment
Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2011 at 12:07 am

Greer Park does not look like a park, more like a field. They should plant 10 times more trees than there are now. They should plant more big trees to shield the residential housing from the noise and pollution of 101.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2011 at 8:31 am

Ada, it all depends on your definition of park.

Greer Park is a great place for sports, not a great place for picnics though. Greer Park should be emphasized as a sports park and fully utilized as such. The trees should be where the spectators sit, the picnic areas should be after sports team hangouts, and the bathrooms large enough to use as changing facilities.

Other cities have great sports parks. We need a great sports place, Greer should be that.

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Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm

WE can certainly keep the soccer fields, no question about that, but it makes sense to plant more trees along the Bayshore Fwy to shield it from 101.

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Posted by Tree Minder
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Ada says: "Greer Park does not look like a park, more like a field."
Ada, that's exactly what it is a sports field for baseball and soccer. However, the new area is supposed to be for picnics but I've yet to see any picnicing or partying going on in that area - it's too near H.101.

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Posted by Anon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm

I use the new picnic area Greer Park at lunch time during the week. I often see others enjoying the use of the picnic tables as well. I'm disappointed the trees will be removed as I like the shade to do my pilates. I do understand though that Eucalyptus trees do not last very long in North America since the roots do not grow as deep as they do in Australia.