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Letter To The Editor: A 'Tree City' That Destroys Historic Trees

Patch user and former City Councilman William Wainwright questions the city's explanation for removing historic olive trees at Rankin Park.

by William Wainwright

Back to , named after James Rankin, Black Diamond Mines miner and mine owner-manager, County Sheriff (1884-1888), President of Bank of Martinez (1898-1901). You would think that Tim Tucker or any member of the Park and Recreation staff, not to mention my former colleagues on the City Council, would have thought, well if they're going to cut down the olive trees that Bill's great-grandfather planted, we should at least call him about it in advance... Well, not a soul called. Not Dylan Radke, Chair of the Park and Recreation Commission whose wife I supported for School Board, not Gay Gerlach, a friend and member of the same Commission, whom I supported for City Council, not Don Palotta, also a Commission member, friend and brother of an Alhambra classmate, nor anyone else.  No one called my attention to the planned destruction of the beautiful 120-year old olive trees that canopied the Rankin Park picnic area that has been the site of many fine Martinez functions over the years. 

Those trees are gone. The explanation: “they were diseased." Ever hear of an olive tree dying?   Also, “a handicap access issue." Just spin to hide the need to get the terrain remodeling job done at "least expense." "Least expense" destroyed an important part of our Martinez heritage, the site of many memorable Martinez community picnics.

Now they're all gone, in the City that boasts that it is a "Tree City."  "Tree City," my eye.

Donald Pallotta March 01, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Bill, Respectfully we at the PRMCC asked all the right questions with regard to the trees. I knew of their significance and developed the subject at the public meeting while we discussed the plans for Rankin Park. It is a matter of public record. The City engineer told us that their removal was imperative due to being diseased and that the trees would be replaced. We at the PRMCC take our jobs seriously and act with genuine concern for improvement. While historical considerations are a part of the process, our focus is to improve the Park's infrastructure for many years to come. I believe that the improvements we have recommended so far will be embraced as successful. We have a beautiful new pool and have done great things at the Library. We're not done yet! Many more parks will be improved and our process is done in public.Please come and discuss your feelings as we progress. I am excited to see each finished product and think the Public will continue to be pleased.
Chris Kapsalis March 01, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Donald. Is their a report from a certified tree Arborists that these trees were in fact diseased? Olive trees are extreamly hardy trees and very resistant to disease.
Scott Williams March 01, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Kudos for the job the city did on the pool, but I couldn't believe that all those magnificent old olive trees were gone when I drove into the park a while ago. I cured the olives from those trees for years when I lived in that neighborhood, climbed high in them, used ladders and knocked about at all levels of them and they were as healthy as could be. Mtz PD used to come by to see what was going on and then help hold the ladder. None of the limbs were falling, the canopy was thick and they produced tons of gorgeous olives. I stopped picking them when the olive maggot entered CA fifteen years ago or so as all wild and feral trees are subject to its predations. It ruins much of the fruit, but it doesn't harm the trees at all. I hope these weren't cut down due to that as those trees could have lived for hundreds of years longer if that is the case. They were beautiful, heritage trees and more thought should have gone into preserving them. A tree that is going to fall over and harm someone is one thing, but I doubt these were in such bad shape as they always looked healthy and strong. I'd be interested to know what disease they were infected with to warrant the wholesale destruction of that beautiful grove. Thanks for bringing it up Bill.
MamaKat March 02, 2012 at 07:02 AM
I moved to Martinez in 2006, drawn here by the beautiful hills,waterfront, and John Muir's legacy. I have a great love of the trees in this town and have seen many destroyed since I moved here. My 5 year old daughter cries and laments the passing of many trees as we pass them. We had a little funeral for the trees in Rankin Park after watching them cut trees down that she loved playing on. To a child, it sounds like the trees are screaming when they go through the chipper.John Muir must be rolling in his grave.
Harlan Strickland March 03, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Setting aside the current tree issue for a moment, there have been other tree issues in the past that have caused people here to question our city government's commitment to Martinez being a "Tree City." The standards for a Tree City, USA, along with detailed explanations of each item, are at http://www.arborday.org/programs/treeCityUSA/standards.cfm. The standards require that the city has: 1. A Tree Board or Department 2. A Tree Care Ordinance 3. A Community Forestry Program With an Annual Budget of at Least $2 Per Capita 4. An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation If some of our representatives read this (and why wouldn't they?), I'd be interested in the city's accounting of its compliance with items #1 through #3 (there is an Arbor Day observation and proclamation).

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