The big picture

Proper care for Chico’s tree canopy should be a priority

On the one hand, the City Council’s decision to move forward with a plan to remove dozens of trees from a northwest Chico neighborhood seemed like throwing the baby out with the bath water. After all, the giant, shade-providing Yarwood sycamores along Mission Ranch Boulevard aren’t diseased. On the other hand, some of them are pushing up the sidewalk, posing a hazard for pedestrians, and thus creating a liability for the city. Large branches have fallen on nearby private property, including one resident’s car.

By all accounts, the fast-growing, roughly 14-year-old sycamores were the wrong variety of trees for the area. As noted during the meeting, they were not planted with the proper irrigation that would have allowed the trees to plant deep roots. We agree that removing them is the right thing to do in this circumstance.

What we are concerned about, however, is that the city clearly lacks the information it needs to properly maintain the existing canopy and to replenish trees slated for removal. At this point, without an urban forester on staff and without a comprehensive plan—the long-promised Urban Forest Management Plan—we question whether the General Services Department is competent enough to replant trees suitable to the region.

As one member of the public put it, “Let Chico be known as the City of Trees, not the City of Crepe Myrtles.” Her point was that it’s not suitable to replace large canopy trees such as sycamores with the ornamental small trees.

We know that city staff is dealing with an overwhelming amount of work. But this issue has been shelved for far too long. The department needs to set a firm timeline for adoption of a management plan. As the CN&R has said before, one of the public’s points of pride in Chico is its trees. Properly caring for them should be a priority.