Trees are an important part of Eagle Rock’s living infrastructure. Trees provide beauty, shade, cooling and pollution control for our urban environment, and are one of the most sensible and effective pollution fighters for our city. As living things, trees require care and maintenance. TERA has been working with the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) and Council Office to help fund planting, watering, and maintenance of street trees. There are three different ways that trees are planted in Eagle Rock:
• Residential Parkway Trees
• Private Residential Trees
• Street Trees
RESIDENTIAL PARKWAY TREES
Both City Plants and Northeast Trees will plant free trees on parkways for residents on residential streets. Generally, the trees are planted according to Urban Forestry guidelines. Issues that are specific to street/parkway tree planting are the type of tree, the size of the tree, the location and the time of year the tree is planted. Both native and non-native trees are listed on the Urban Forestry Tree List. The type of tree planted in a parkway is important so that the tree’s roots do not break the sidewalk. A new residential parkway tree will most likely be planted by either City Plants or Northeast Trees, then staked and tied. The resident is expected to care for the tree over a period of 3 years. Watering and maintenance instructions will be provided to the owner/resident. Both agencies will require that the property owner/resident sign a written agreement agreeing to care for the tree.
PRIVATE RESIDENTIAL TREES
If residents would like free trees to plant on their property they can obtain up to seven (7) free trees delivered from City Plants along with ties and stakes so property owners can plant the trees themselves. On occasion, our Assembly member or City Councilmember may provide free trees at a Saturday morning tree event. Residents are responsible for picking up the free tree at the tree event while supplies last and planting the tree themselves or with the help of a gardener. For any kind of tree planting the soil must be prepared, a large hole dug in an area large enough to accommodate the tree’s roots and canopy. The new tree must be watered twice a month using at least 15 gallons of water and deep, slow watering so that roots will grow deeper. A Tree Gator may be purchased online, wrapped around the new tree, filled with 15 gallons of water and allowed to seep slowly over a period of 8 hours. Drip irrigation around the drip line over several hours is also a good way to water a tree. Sprinkler watering is not advised because the tree’s roots will not grow deep into the ground, but will tend to remain shallow. Mulch spread around the tree’s drip line is recommended to keep the soil moist being careful to leave “breathing room” around the tree’s trunk.
These are the trees that line our major thoroughfares in commercial districts and very often reside in narrow sidewalk cutouts. Street trees are the most stressed of all trees in the City. They are necessary to provide beauty, shade, cooling and pollution control as City streets are bombarded by heat, dirt, and pollution from car/truck traffic and freeways. In Eagle Rock we are flanked by two major freeways: the 134 Freeway to the north and the 2 Freeway to the west, so we need all the pollution control we can get. Trees are the important silent workhorses that exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen.
Approximately three years ago in 2014, the ERNC along with the Council office and TERA collaborated on an ambitious tree planting project where 270 street trees were planted in tree wells on Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock Blvd., Figueroa Blvd. and York Blvd. There was an attempt to get commercial business owners to provide maintenance for these trees, but that was not a guaranteed way to get tree care. A tree inventory was created on a Google doc and that tree inventory has been maintained and updated. A maintenance contract was obtained through Northeast Trees for two years of tree watering and maintenance. During those two years, a persistent drought settled over much of California. Eagle Rock’s trees suffered as did all the trees. Even with regular watering many of our new and existing trees died. We were fortunate that the majority of the new trees were receiving regular watering for the first two years. The problem arose when the 3rd year loomed. As a member of the ERNC Sustainability Committee, I joined with others on the ERNC to attempt to obtain additional funding from the Council office for a 3rd year of watering, but that request was denied. The Council office had agreed only to a two-year maintenance contract, and they were sticking to it. TERA agreed to provide some additional funding for summer watering only in 2016. The Community Forestry Advisory Committee (CFAC), which is comprised of members from various tree organizations in Los Angeles, have collectively determined that new tree maintenance and watering needs to continue for at least three years and up to five years, ESPECIALLY during drought conditions.
As luck would have it, during the winter of 2016-2017, the rains came and all our trees received the wealth that is water. Now we are facing another hot summer and again have to design a plan to water the new trees that have not consistently received at least 3 years of watering and maintenance.
TREE WATERING PROGRAM
Ursula Brown from the Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful (CERB) and I watered the medians and pots along Eagle Rock Blvd. and Sierra Villa pots for at least the last 2 summers. The planting on Eagle Rock Blvd. was started by Eagle Rock environmental activist John Stillion. Ursula has maintained those plantings ever since. She and I would go out approximately once a week during the summer. Often Ursula would go out on her own and water. Through ERNC funding she and CERB obtained a 100-gallon watering tank that she placed on the back of her Subaru truck. At the end of 2016, the ERNC asked Ursula if she would be willing to water the new street trees since we were not able to get another watering contract. She said she needed her expenses paid because it was a large project and she would have to go out to water more often. Between the ERNC as funder and TERA as fiscal agent, we found the money to pay Ursula and the Tree Watering Program was born.
Ursula could certainly use more volunteers. She has two male volunteers who help on occasion, and I help when I can. She keeps track of the new trees she waters making sure to create a berm, remove weeds and trash from around the tree well, assures that stakes are intact and tied, all very time-consuming efforts. To work with Ursula as a volunteer please contact her at 323-202-9261.
EXISTING STREET TREES
Unfortunately, we are not providing any additional watering or maintenance for the existing, mature street trees. It is assumed that if they have survived the drought and have been receiving rainwater from above and ground water through their taproots, they will have adjusted to the generally dry conditions of this geographical area. Over 8,000 trees have died in Los Angeles during the drought and had to be removed by the City workers, however, there are still some that have not been removed. Urban Forestry has a backlog of tree removal going back several years. Tim Tyson, the relatively new Supervisor of Urban Forestry, explained Trish Gossett and me in a meeting about our collective trees in both Eagle Rock and Highland Park, that Urban Forestry is working on tree removal with a 2-3 year backlog. Urban Forestry’s budget was cut after the 2008-2009 crash and they are just now beginning to grow their staff and take care of tree trimming and tree removal. Tim said Urban Forestry can provide watering and maintenance but the Council Office would have to make a motion to the City Council to pay Urban Forestry for that service. Urban Forestry now has a staff of 135 with 20 arborists.
Trees, in general, become weakened due to the lack of water, which also weakens their ability to fight off pests and infestations such as the golden spotted oak borer, and the poly phagus shot hole borer, two pests that attack and weaken our protected oak trees. Xylella infests liquid amber, birch, and oleander, and lurp psellid infests eucalyptus as well as multiple strains of fungus. Photosynthesis and transpiration also become negatively affected due to lack of water and nutrients. Tree leaves are not able to perform the function of gas exchange efficiently through the stomata of their leaves during drought conditions.
There’s so much more we can be doing to help our Eagle Rock trees. If you are interested in getting involved please contact TERA, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council or the Council Office for more information.
by Jane Demian, TERA Board Member – Secretary