'Heritage of Pleasanton': City facing off with protesters over removal of old tree

PLEASANTON, Calif. (KGO) -- Five protestors showed up Tuesday morning at Lions Wayside Park in Pleasanton to try and block the removal of a eucalyptus tree, thought to be the oldest and largest one in the city.

City officials say the tree has an incurable Sulphur fungus and they need to take it down before it falls and hurts someone.

"We are also sad having to see this tree removed but unfortunately, because it is decaying with the fungus, we can't save the tree and we don't want falling branches falling on the public," said Pleasanton's Public Information Officer Cindy Chin.

The small group may be having an impact. The tree removal crews were supposed to be onsite by 7 a.m. At 10:30, there was still no sign of them. Chin said in an email at 10:15 the crew had been trying to organize all morning and, given the time, will now be preparing the work site Tuesday. She gave no time of when they will start removing the tree.

The protesters want to know if there are other options than just taking out the tree.

"I would like to see the tree at least pruned-reduced in size-so that it survives at least another 150 years," said Pleasanton resident Wayne Strickler

"This represents the heritage of Pleasanton. It was here far before I was here. It is believed, all of our records show, that it is the largest and oldest tree in Pleasanton, said Strickler, who is 81-years-old.

The city says pruning would not save it because the fungus is throughout the entire tree.

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The activists say they are bringing in another tree service to take a look at it just in case. They say this old tree is worth it.

"We just want to make sure we get a second opinion on it and make sure they are doing everything they can to save the tree," said Todd Myers of Pleasanton.

The protesting residents say they love the tree, but they are also suspicious of the city's motives. They wonder if there is a bigger plan here, like paving over a section of the park and putting in a parking lot.

"If the tree didn't have fungus and wasn't dying, we wouldn't be removing the tree. There are definitely no plans for a parking lot," Chin said.

Myers says he understands that public safety needs to come first. He just wants to make sure this is the only option.

"It can be dangerous, there are hundreds of people in this park throughout the week. But if it can be saved, someone should step up. At least make sure the process is done appropriately," Myers said.

Strickler says he plans to sit in his lawn chair near the tree as long as he can.

"We are going to stay here and do what we can to halt the process and make sure they follow the proper process. We're going to try and make some impact here, to say we want to see the environmental impact report, that they have pruned this tree, that they tried to save the tree- -- they've done nothing," Strickler said.

"We did everything we could to try to preserve the tree but public safety comes first for our community," Chin said.

The tree removal process is expected to take several days. Chin says they plan to save part of the tree.

"A portion of the tree will be saved for historical preservation and we will have it on display at the Aviso Adobe. Further details of that will be coming due to COVID-19 of when folks can see the portion of the tree we would like to save for historical preservation," Chin said.

We asked if another tree would be planted in its place. Chin said that is still to be determined.
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