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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 10:32 pm | Fair 49º


Carpinteria Ponders Future of Troubled Italian Stone Pine Trees

The city of Carpinteria is considering what to do about its struggling yet beloved Italian stone pines, a non-native species of tree that adorns several streets.

A recent report shows two of the 28 must be removed due to significant risk of tree failure — mostly splitting trunks and damage from excessive utility company pruning — but several others are at risk of following suit if action isn’t taken to save them.

The Italian stone pine, which hails from the Mediterranean region, is well known for the canopy and shade it throws on several residential streets.

It’s the same storied species that lines Anapamu Street in Santa Barbara.  

The Carpinteria City Council unanimously voted this week to back a Tree Advisory Board recommendation to remove two trees on the 4700 and 4800 blocks of 7th Street, most of which were planted as a community service by the Lions Club in 1955.

Local arborist Bill Spiewak recommended a third tree come down in that area, but the city already removed it earlier this year due to a large stress fracture creating a significant risk of tree failure.

“I don’t think any of us up here enjoy when we have a tree cut down in our neighborhood,” Mayor Gregg Carty said, noting safety as high priority. “When they say ‘high risk’ that concerns me a lot.”

In Spiewak’s report, he found that most of the 28 Italian Stone Pines on 7th Street, Carpinteria Avenue, Ash Avenue, Wullbrandt Way and others were healthy and in structurally fair condition, but in need of pruning to reduce canopy weight and to reduce the risk of splitting during extreme weather.

The stone pines are classified as “special condition street trees” in the city's Street Tree Management Plan due to their size, age, conflicts with surrounding overhead and underground utilities and infrastructure.

Because of that classification, Carpinteria plans to host subsequent community discussions about how to establish a final stone pine tree management plan.

Spiewak concluded that nine other trees are at moderate-to-high risk of tree failure and nine are moderate risk, all of which are located on 7th Street, Wullbrandt Way, Carpinteria Avenue and Olive Avenue.

Between 2011 and 2016, four stone pines were moved on 7th Street due to tree failure, along with one other due to potential tree failure from a large stress fracture and one on Carpinteria Avenue due to death by bark beetle infestation.

Steve Dowty of the Pearl Chase Society stands near one of the irricades set up to water the Italian stone pine trees on Anapamu Street in Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Steve Dowty of the Pearl Chase Society stands near one of the irricades set up to water the Italian stone pine trees on Anapamu Street in Santa Barbara. (Noozhawk file photo)

Public Works has filled one of the vacant tree locations and is in the process of planting replacement trees in the other locations.

Public Works Director Charlie Ebeling said trees could be preserved by cabling to help retain the spreading limbs that are more prone to failure, but so far the city hasn’t done much of that.

“Tree removal and replacement is fairly inexpensive,” Ebeling said. “Cabling is likely to be multiples of that.”

Carpinteria budgets $135,000 for annual street tree maintenance and $25,000 per year for additional trimming, emergency maintenance and normal tree replacements.

Sidewalks and roadways adjacent to the trees have already undergone multiple repairs due to cracking and lifting caused by roots.

Councilman Wade Nomura asked what the city of Santa Barbara was doing differently with its Italian stone pines, which seem to be causing fewer problems on Anapamu Street.

Locals even started a watering program to save them during the drought.

Eberling said it seems Santa Barbara’s trees grew out differently, with single trunks instead of the triple trunks seen in Carpinteria.

The utility lines in Santa Barbara are also much higher, City Manager Dave Durflinger said, which means they get less of the pruning that tends to damage trees over time.

Eberling said residents who live near the soon-to-be removed trees will choose from a list of pre-approved species for replacements, since a variety of trees can help prevent devastating loss from infestations.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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