Fences and a tree

Deterring chair pilferers, a rogue planting and downtown is not dead

Last week, a new fence went up along the northern edge of Cal Water’s property at First and Orient streets. That parcel, home of the two iconic raised water tanks, sits adjacent to the CN&R’s office. It’s a pretty little spot with a lot of mature trees and a grassy knoll, and a place where I would sometimes sit and eat lunch, next to a young magnolia.

Over the years, I’ve seen other people enjoying the space, too, including a young guy who regularly practiced juggling. More recently, homeless folks have been hanging out and bedding down there. Probably due to its location directly across from the entrance to Annie’s Glen, this private property had a park-like quality. Not anymore. I called over to Cal Water this week and spoke with Pete Bonacich, the company’s acting district manager. He confirmed my suspicions. The fence went up because, as Bonacich put it, “We had a tremendous amount of problems with vagrants.”

Turns out some of the folks setting up camp there were stealing chairs from the porches of nearby homes and lounging on them on the property. Bonacich said there appeared to be regular drug-dealing at the site, too. After numerous complaints by the neighbors and no response from the police department, the company tried deterrents, such as turning the sprinklers on at varying hours. That didn’t do the job. So, up went the fence and a number of no-trespassing signs. It’ll take some getting used to.

Curiosity killed the tree: On the subject of changes near CN&R HQ, I noticed a few weeks back some greenery growing in the center of the roundabout at Second and Flume. At first I thought it was a weed, but upon further inspection, turns out it’s a sapling—a redwood, I think.

The little sprout of a tree was still alive this week, so I called City Hall to see what the deal is—whether the city or a rogue tree lover planted it. After talking to someone in the engineering department (not planted by them), I ended up speaking with Dan Efseaff, Chico’s parks and natural resources manager, who also didn’t plant it. He had actually seen the sapling earlier in the day while out on a stroll.

Efseaff said he understands the motivation behind the gesture, but that the tree likely isn’t in the right spot. Moreover, plans for landscaping and an art feature there are in the early stages, he said. In other words, Efseaff will be yanking the young tree. He said I’m not the only person to bring this to his attention, so don’t blame me for ending the plant’s life. Who knows, maybe it will get replanted elsewhere.

Speaking of demises, you’d think these days that the downtown was going to pot. Sure, the area has issues, but I’m down here every day, and I can tell you first-hand that the problems associated with the region are greatly exaggerated. If you don’t believe me, read this week’s cover story by News Editor Tom Gascoyne, who interviewed numerous downtowners, mostly business owners, about the changing face of the city center.