Once again trees are causing a stir in Santa Monica as City Hall moved forward Tuesday with plans to remodel Reed Park by removing 45 juniper trees that lined Wilshire Boulevard adjacent to the park’s heavily-used tennis courts.

The Santa Monica Treesavers, environmental activists who forced City Hall to re-examine and ultimately alter plans to remove more than 50 ficus trees on Second and Fourth streets in Downtown in 2008, put on the pressure in the last week after seeing signs posted on the junipers informing passersby of their fate.

While one can debate whether or not removing the trees will improve public safety and make park users feel more secure when visiting (police said the trees were used for concealment and that there was a high number of reports of alcohol and drug use, illegal camping and other undesirable activities), the Daily Press can find no fault with how City Hall proceeded with the junipers’ removal. To say city staff did not provide the public with enough information about the project is disingenuous.

The Reed Park project is four years in the making. Not only were public meetings held, at which time residents and police officers mentioned the public safety issues, the Recreation and Parks Commission and the City Council both held public meetings and ultimately signed off on the remodel, which includes removing the trees and replacing them with California native plants and vines. City staff also posted notices on the trees two weeks in advance of their removal, something which is not required but a move made because city staff realized how important trees are to the community. Notices were also sent out to those on the city’s Tree Removal Mailing List.

Some called on the trees to be relocated. City staff went back out and looked at the trees again in response to the Treesavers’ demands and found that many of the trees were pruned beyond repair or were in ill health, necessitating their removal.

Santa Monica routinely receives awards for its tree policy and has certified arborists on staff who know what’s best. City Hall is currently planting 1,000 new California native trees throughout the city to add to the current inventory of approximately 34,000 trees. It seems city officials understand the community’s love of trees and has changed policies to keep the public informed. Residents have the Treesavers to thank, but when it comes to the junipers, we believe the Treesavers are barking up the wrong tree.

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