Tree removals will now begin next week at this Long Beach park

August 5, 2016 GMT

Over the next five months the city will be removing hundreds of dead and dying trees in parks across Long Beach,starting with23 trees at Wardlow Park Tuesday, officials said.

The work, initiallyanticipated to start on Friday, has been postponed until next week because Tuesday is the first day the contractor, Great Scott Tree Service, can begin the removal process, officials said.

Parks, Recreation & Marine Director Marie Knight said the specific details, including which trees will be removed when and at which location, have not yet been determined.

“We will try our best to keep the public informed of our schedule moving forward, but we are managing a lot of factors in this schedule including programs at the parks, the contractors resources and other emergent needs,” she said in an email.

While the scope of the project has not been laid out, she estimates the work will cost around $700,000.

Knight said hundreds of the trees targeted for removal were identified in a2014 tree survey, which helped create a database detailing the condition of some 26,000 in the city. Of those, nearly 600 were listed as dead and over 6,000 trees were categorized as being in poor condition, many of which are likely to be included in the removal effort due to the “compromised” urban forest.

“We do not have the funds to go out and re-survey every tree, so we use this survey as a guide,” Knight said. “In addition, although we have many that are dead, the trees we are starting with have been identified as in high use and impact areas, and are a priority for removal.”

The 2014 report, coupled with recent incidents of large limbs failing on trees in almost every city park, has prompted the city to begin removal work immediately beginning with five parks: Wardlow, Ramona, Bixby, Hudson and Admiral Kid parks. Other parks with significant amounts of tree or limb failure include El Dorado Regional, Heartwell and Houghton parks, Knight said.

City spokeswoman Kerry Gerot says the tree removals are necessary, citing a “perfect storm” of conditions thanks to the drought, hotter summer temperatures and a bark beetle infestation, all of which are transforming living trees into dead and dying safety hazards.

The work will continue through January, so as not to disrupt the birds during nesting season, which Knight said ends Aug. 1 in most parks and Sept. 1 at El Dorado parks and the nature center, and the forest wetlands.

The sudden notice comes weeks after a public outcry over the “topping” of several Coral trees on the bluff at Bixby Park, which the public said wasn’t properly noticed and many questioned the timing and severity of the work in the heart of bird nesting season. Although an arborist said in April that six of the 10 Coral trees needed to be removed immediately, they are not included in the current removal effort, Knight said.

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  • The news of the removal work also follows a recent release of a

    scathing audit

    by City Auditor Laura Doud, which looked at operations in the parks department for the first time in a decade.

    Inthe audit, Doud referenced the same inventory study, which she said produced some “alarming” statistics, including a finding that approximately 27 percent of trees were in dead or poor condition. Doud also expressed concerns over past maintenance practices, such as tree trimming, which she said has traditionally been done on an emergency or as-needed basis.

    Funding has kept the department’s hands tied, Knight said, preventing the department from addressing many of the underlying issues, including updating an antiquated irrigation system at an estimated cost of $113 million.

    The department is, however, anticipating about $18 million in funding over the next three years from Measure A, a 10-year sales tax increase voters approved in June, which begins accruing on Jan. 1. This week, the cityreleased its proposed 2017 budget, which includes nearly $6.1 million for parks-related work, including upgrades and improvements at facilities and playgrounds, and about $350,000 to “plant, trim, irrigate and remove trees” in the citywide urban forest.

    The City Council over the next several weeks will discuss the proposals and is expected to approve the proposed budget in mid-September.