Warning issued for tree that killed woman

April 30, 2008 7:38:32 PM PDT
The city of San Francisco had ample warning about the tree branch that fell and killed a woman earlier this month.

The Department of Parks and Recreation commissioned that report years ago and learned that tree and several others in Stern Grove were singled out as hazards. The most important question is whether the park did anything about the hazards in the report. The reports were commissioned four years ago. The report identified specific trees as being potentially dangerous.

Just how dangerous can it be?

Last week, a huge limb fell off a tree at Alamo Square Park and landed on one of the main walking paths.

"I mean, if someone had been under them, it could have easily killed them," says local resident Kristin Phillips.

Phillips walks her dog Stella twice a day at that park. She and the other regulars we spoke with all knew about the terrible accident April 14th when a tree limb fell and crushed Kathleen Bolton at Stern Grove.

The arborists report, commissioned four years ago by the Department of Parks and Recreation, identifies 603 of Stern Grove's 2,600 trees as potential hazards which need attention.

The report gives the redwood that killed Bolton a hazard rating on the high end of moderate. It recommended the city conduct an aerial inspection of that tree. But Parks and Recreation does not know if that was ever done.

"We're currently trying to determine if it has been one of the trees inspected or not," says a Parks and Recreation spokesperson.

Stern Grove is in Supervisor Carmen Chu's district. She told ABC7 that she will call for a hearing to look into the maintenance of the city's tree canopies. She says park staffing levels may be part of the problem.

"I do know the Recreation and Parks Department has had some trouble maintaining some of the parks and playgrounds just because of not having enough staffing available," says Chu.

According to Parks and Recreation, there are 256 gardeners, supervisors and service workers. 26 vacancies have yet to be filled. There are only 15 urban forestry workers, the ones who actually take care of the trees.

Veteran park employees told ABC7 privately that there just aren't enough workers to maintain the more than 100,000 trees in the 3,400 acres of city parkland.

Many seem to have witnessed a limb falling at one of the city parks at one time or another. Teacher Ron Buchanon is concerned when he takes his first graders to the park.

"I think if they were doing a better job, we would not be seeing really large pieces of these trees falling down, especially during storms," says Buchanon.

Not only is Parks and Recreation trying to find out if they did anything about the tree that killed Ms. Bolton, they are also trying to find out is they did anything about the 600 other trees that were deemed hazardous. They are also trying to get the word out to visitors aof Stern Grove Park that it is okay to come out there and that it will continue to be safe to enjoy the concerts coming up in June, because they point out because a tree is identified as hazardous, the trees are not necessarily in imminent danger of falling. They believe Ms. Bolton's accident was a fluke.


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