Environment

Tree cutting underway in Sacramento’s William Land Park

City worker John Krecek places cut branches in a wood chipper on Tuesday in William Land Park in Sacramento. The city has begun removing 66 trees it says are unhealthy or structurally unsafe.
City worker John Krecek places cut branches in a wood chipper on Tuesday in William Land Park in Sacramento. The city has begun removing 66 trees it says are unhealthy or structurally unsafe. lsterling@sacbee.com

Sacramento may be the City of Trees, but the jewel of its park system will lose 66 of its approximately 2,000 trees in the coming weeks. This week, workers began removing unhealthy or structurally unsafe trees of a variety of species from William Land Park.

Crews plan to remove about three to five trees each day over the next two weeks or so, according to city spokeswoman Marycon Razo.

The trees destined for removal, marked by orange paint, are scattered throughout the 166-acre regional park. City officials say the trees are sick or have structural problems that may cause them to drop limbs and branches, posing a public safety concern.

One of the park’s trees experienced structural failure Wednesday, causing a limb to split and fall onto two cars parked on a nearby street. The cause – and whether the tree had been targeted for removal – was unknown Wednesday, city officials said.

The drought may be partially to blame, exaggerating health problems in already sick trees, Razo said.

“When a drought comes, a tree’s systems can be weakened and become more susceptible to disease and pathogens,” said Sacramento Tree Foundation Education Programs Manager Kelly Conroy. “As a result, pests and diseases can spread through urban forests, affecting a much wider spread of trees.”

Lack of water may overstress trees – especially those in Sacramento used to plentiful irrigation prior to the drought – resulting in internal chemistry changes and overall slowing of photosynthesis. Underwatered trees may respond by decaying, browning, wilting or by shedding their leaves earlier in an attempt to survive through fall and winter by going dormant early, Conroy said.

Drought-stricken, dry trees also increase the risk of fire, Razo said, posing yet another public safety concern.

Removing 66 trees probably won’t reduce the park’s water use, Razo said. “Parks are not like residents, and the amount of water used for parks is determined by the park’s usage and overall conditions,” she said.

Razo said 66 trees is not an unusual number to lose in one year, and characterized their removal as a routine cleanup.

Sacramento Tree Foundation members are less comfortable with the cutting. “Sixty-six trees is certainly nothing to ignore, since every tree has a significant role,” Conroy said. “As a result, we will be losing quite a few of their benefits. Urban trees are responsible for cleaning the air, recharging groundwater, capturing stormwater, providing a sense of place and community, and shading buildings – which reduces greenhouse gas by reducing temperatures and cutting down air-conditioning use.”

Conroy said she hopes future tree cutting in the park can be avoided by proper care and watering. Using soak irrigation and mulch, to keep in soil moisture, are recommended methods for watering large trees during times of drought.

Following removal, the trees will be turned into mulch and recycled for citywide environmental programs, Razo said.

Brenna Lyles: 916-321-1083, @brennmlyles

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