Turning shade into gunstocks?

City of Chico removes huge, leafy heritage trees at Third and Chestnut streets

Third and Chestnut trees—before.

Third and Chestnut trees—before.

photos courtesy of charles withuhn

Turning shade into gunstocks?
“Dear Friends of the Heritage Tree Committee,” wrote heritage-tree advocate Charles Withuhn in a recent brief email to members of the Chico Heritage Tree Committee. “Most certified arborists who studied these trees said most of these trees could be saved. Thank you for your interest, Charles Withuhn.” The email was accompanied by two attached photos—before and after shots of the heritage walnut trees (or shocking lack of them in the case of the “after” shot) at Third and Chestnut streets.

In last week’s column, I wrote about the huge, leafy heritage trees that Withuhn and fellow members of the Chico Heritage Tree Committee were rallying to save before they were due to be removed by the city of Chico around the end of year. On Aug. 3, Withuhn, a well-known sign-maker, had tied large yellow ribbons—bearing sayings such as, “Save me! The City says I’m being cut down. I was planted by a friend of Annie Bidwell”—around four of them.

Unfortunately, they were chopped down shortly after I wrote that column.

“The following Thursday morning [after tying the ribbons on the trees], I saw huge equipment [removing the trees]—they had the biggest crane and the biggest forklift you could imagine. [The hired contractor] had already limbed the trees when I got there,” said Withuhn, clearly moved to emotion during a recent interview. The following day, he said, “they were all down.”

Claro walnut (as the wood from the trees is called), Withuhn noted, is a popular wood for gunstocks and fetches a pretty price, roughly $6,000-$20,000 per tree, he estimated. (Its growing area is limited to the United States’ West Coast.)

“I am just getting going. I’m pissed,” Withuhn said. Along those lines, he encourages anyone interested in getting on board with the Chico Heritage Tree Committee to do just that (call 343-3152 or email Withuhn at cswithuhn@yahoo.com).

Third and Chestnut trees—after. (Turn up the air conditioner!)

“All healthy trees need to be preserved,” he said. “That’s the problem—we’re cutting down healthy trees.”

One of the yellow ribbons said: “Please call the city for me: 896-7200.” Perhaps not a bad idea.

Postcards are rolling in!
I am moved by the number of fabulous, creative (and heartfelt) postcards that I have received so far in response to my Aug. 8 column titled “Bring back the postcard!

A wooden one painted blue-green with flowers on one side, from a woman named Diane Beers, of Oroville, reads: “Dear Christine, I have been saving this wooden postcard for 40 years, wondering who to send it to. After reading your recent column, the answer to my question is finally resolved! You have renewed my enthusiasm for communication via postcards and I became officially retired this year. I plan on making this one of my new hobbies. My best to you, Diane.”

Thank you, Diane. Your sweetness made my day.

More postcard news next time …

Alongside my “no email” policy, I resolve to make better use of the wonderful Royal Mail, and send letters and postcards to people. There is a huge pleasure in writing a letter, putting it in an envelope and sticking the stamp on it. And huge pleasure in receiving real letters, too.

–Tom Hodgkinson, editor of British magazine The Idler