After an arborist review of the 125-year-old American Elm Trees located in front of the Colusa County Courthouse, the Board of Supervisors made the difficult decision and voting to have the trees removed.
“The Board of Supervisors choose to remove the five trees in front of the Colusa County Courthouse for the concern of public safety,” said Colusa County CAO Bob Mazar.
The trees, estimated to have been planted around 1890, have been dropping limbs damaging courthouse property and putting the public at risk.
“In July, within a 8 to 10 day period, one of the American Elm trees dropped two limbs of significant size without warning,” said Mazar, “the first one caused no damage, and the second caused minor damage to surrounding trees and a bench and temporarily impeded use of the sidewalk.”
After the second branch had dropped, the branch and tree were observed to be hollow and decaying.
“Based on this observation, the area was cordoned off for safety, and an evaluation of the trees was requested,” said Mazar.
A certified arborist from Richard’s Tree Service conducted an evaluation of the trees. The arborist recommended that two of the trees to be removed and the remaining three trees to be pruned significantly and topped. However, due to the significance of the trees, the county contracted consulting arborist, Denice Britton, to give a review the trees.
Britton commented in her report, I found these historic trees to be seriously compromised by decay resulting from severe topping at approximately 30’ to 40’ that occurred many years ago Topping trees results in the vigorous regrowth of many upright sprouts. These sprouts are only attached by the wood produced since the tree was topped while the wood in the trunk at the time of topping begins to decay. As a result, the sprouts – now the current branches – are 6” to 12” or more in diameter and growing on the outside edges of these old cuts, supported by only 3” to 5” of sound wood below the callus growth. The upper portions of these original trunks are hollow for 4’ to 10’ below the opening, creating nesting cavities currently inhabited by barn owls, an introduced species common in farm lands. The sprouts or branches growing from these hollow shells are now 30’ to 40’ tall, quite heavy and exposed to winds.
“In my opinion, these trees are too decayed to leave in place in their current condition. They present a high risk to the public, especially to vehicular traffic and pedestrians going to and from the courthouse,” said Britton, “The area underneath the trees has been cordoned off for now.
The most prudent thing to do would be to remove all the trees and replant them at this time. However, the elms are particularly vigorous and resilient. Despite the fact that they are decayed, according to current science and wood strength formulas, they likely have the ability to survive another crown reduction – so that at least 2 or 3 of the trees could be reduced in an effort to retain the historic character of the courthouse landscape.”
The Board of Supervisors reviewed the report by Britton and made the determination to remove all five trees.
“It is pretty clear that the trees pose a significant danger to the public and have to be removed,” said Colusa County Supervisor, John Loudon, “The board researched several opportunities to save the trees, but no option was in the best interest of the county.”
Loudon commented that it was a difficult decision for the board.
In the spirit of maintaining the heritage of the 125-year-old trees, the Board of Supervisors agreed to propagate new trees from the existing trees to replant or plant elsewhere in the county.
“The board has made the decision to replace the trees once removed; however, the variety of tree has not been chosen at this time,” said Mazar.
Colusa County Master Gardener, Gerry Hernandez commented that she is sad to see the trees go.
“Unfortunately the trees have not been cared for over they years and have now become a hazard to life and property,” said Hernandez, “This is a great opportunity for the board to provide proper care of our county trees.”
According to Mazar, the five trees are to be removed as soon as possible.
The Williams Pioneer Review and the Colusa County Master Gardeners would like to invite our readers to share memories or give their positive condolences for the Historic Colusa County Courthouse Trees.
“I want our readers to share the personal historical impact the trees have made in their lives – may this be a time you had lunch under the trees or some other event that took place in your life that involved the current Colusa County Courthouse landscape,” said Lloyd Green Jr, editor and publisher of the Williams Pioneer Review, “I will compile the letters and share some of these memories in future editions of the paper.
Additionally, a slideshow of the submissions will be published on our website and shared with the Visit Colusa County Webpage.”
Handwritten letters, drawings, and photographs can be mailed to Williams Pioneer Review, PO Box 1124, Williams CA, or dropped off Wednesday-Thursday between 11AM and 3PM at the Williams Pioneer Review office located at 1004 Market Street in Colusa. Deadline for submissions is September 25, 2015.■