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Opinion: Surprising facts and factoids about trees in our fair city

Original post made on Sep 15, 2023

I recently had a conversation with Palo Alto's urban forester, Peter Gollinger, about the need to plant trees to replace two liquidambar that were removed by the city last year. The length of time that it'll take surprised me.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 15, 2023, 3:42 PM

Comments (3)

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2023 at 7:55 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Thank you for this helpful article, Diana. You digged up a lot of information, and the process did not seem easy!

The tree process you describe does not strike me as ideal. For me, however, the biggest problem is with the rush to remove mature trees. Far too often, perfectly healthy (or adequately healthy) trees are removed simply because a property owner finds them inconvenient, or wants to build out where the tree is (rather than an equally suitable place without a tree).

The problem is that mature trees cannot simply be "replaced" by young trees. As you point out regarding the Palo Alto tree, some of these trees are hundreds of years old, and it will take another hundreds of years to replace them when they are removed. Baby trees don't provide the benefits that mature trees provide.

Tree those benefits are huge. Trees are the greatest oxygen factories on earth, taking in carbon dioxide and churning out oxygen. Trees provide shade to cool the ground, homes, and the air. Trees over creeks help slow the rate of evaporation, which is at the highest rate ever recorded in California history, due to climate change including extended drought. Trees provide homes for animals that are essential parts of our ecosystem, to keep our neighborhoods habitable for wildlife we cherish, such as songbirds. And trees, importantly, hold up the ground, making it easier for us to build homes and transverse our neighborhoods without risk of landslides and erosion. In fact, trees are some of the most important tools to mitigate flood damage. Historically, more people die each year from landslides and mudslides than they do from floods (although unfortunately people die from both), and trees are essential in mitigating the harm caused by these increasingly common climate events.

Plus, as you articulate beautifully, trees provide a stunning canopy for our lovely neighborhoods.

I hope that the City will think harder before removing mature trees.

Posted by Phyllis Sherlock
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 16, 2023 at 12:47 pm

Phyllis Sherlock is a registered user.

The streets I most enjoy driving and walking through are those with a diversity of mature trees; one or two dark Magnolias, some overarching sycamores, Ginkos etc.
The death of all the wonderful Elms lining towns and country roads in the Midwest forever burned in my mind the danger of rows of similar varieties.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 16, 2023 at 4:08 pm

Dave is a registered user.

Unfortunately in my 25+ years in Palo Alto, the city is more interested in removing trees that they have to trim under power lines, or simply topping them rather than doing a proper trimming job that would achieve the same objective and not leaving an unsightly tree. Two heritage redwoods, that had already been topped years ago, were recently removed while being marked "not to be removed" by the city due to neighborhood objections. It appears that it has more to do with saving money on maintaining trees than wanting to support a green Palo Alto. Very sad.

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