Destroying our heritage

Recent removal of healthy heritage walnut trees does not mesh with “City of Trees” image

Despite the efforts of a number of local citizens—including heritage-tree advocate and sign artist Charles Withuhn, a newly formed group called the Chico Heritage Tree Committee, and several arborists—all of the huge heritage-walnut trees at Third and Chestnut streets have been removed. The stark landscape that remains (see before and after photos in The GreenHouse, page 17) is nothing that one would associate with a place that calls itself the “City of Trees.”

We are concerned, especially in the wake of the city’s budget cutbacks and the departure of the urban-forest manager, that perfectly healthy, shade-giving heritage trees—some planted during the time of John Bidwell—may be cut down simply because it is too expensive to either bulb the curbs around them or to get a second opinion on the trees’ long-term viability (opinions by local arborists vary). We wonder, too, how much money is being made from the wood of these trees—heritage claro-walnut wood is highly prized for such things as furniture and gunstocks.

Local arborist Scot Wineland, quoted in a July 2 Chico Enterprise-Record article, called the potential removal of healthy heritage trees for the sake of selling their wood “sacrilege,” adding that “all you really want to do with these trees is trim out the dead wood and do a bit of thinning. This is our history.”

Withuhn, quoted in last week’s GreenHouse column, echoed Wineland: “Our urban forest is a gift from our fathers’ fathers to all of Chico. We adults of Chico will either be gratefully remembered for taking care of this rare and precious gift, or we won’t.”

Walk to the intersection of Third and Chestnut and think back on what that formerly shady spot looked like a few weeks ago. Still feel like you’re in the City of Trees?