Dear Jasper and Kestrel,
Salinas is an old city, as I was reminded of yesterday at Salinas History Day. It is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and some of the houses still standing were built in the 1890s, over 100 years ago. Back then, Central Avenue was a street lined with expensive, fashionable, Victorian style houses; two story wooden houses with pretty gingerbread details and delicate paint jobs. Central Avenue was also home to hundreds of trees, planted when the neighborhood was new.
In recent and not-so-recent years, these trees have gotten too big for their parkways. Their roots have cracked sidewalks and lifted them up to 45 or 50 degree angles, making walking hazardous, especially for the elderly. On walking field trips, when crossing University at Central, I always directed my students to cross the street and continue “until the big tree, you’ll know it when you see it.” And they did.
But not anymore. As I was walking to Roosevelt School yesterday, my path was blocked by a pile of wood chips on the sidewalk, marked with caution tape, and a BIG place where the tree was NOT. This carnage was recent…I could smell the fresh wood. I stopped and stared. How could it be gone? I took some pictures and continued on my way, thinking about how long that tree had stood there, how many field trips it had seen, how many birds had called it home.
As I continued west on Central, there were more…dozens of trees, some four feet in diameter, no longer there, damaged sidewalks removed, sand laid down for pouring new ones. The destruction was systematic and thorough.
I noticed evidence of the damage the trees had caused…streets and driveways uplifted and distorted, pipes damaged, branches that had grown through power lines, still dangling when their trees were gone. I know why the city arborists needed to remove the trees. I understand, really. But I will miss them, anyway.
I also noticed a pattern. Magnolia trees were mostly left intact, with just their invasive roots trimmed when the sidewalk was removed. Are the magnolia trees younger? Are they more amenable to having their roots trimmed than other trees?
There was a spot where the repairs had been completed and the sidewalk was clear and fresh. I am sure the people who walk down Central everyday to get groceries or to walk their children to school will appreciate the easier path. And I hope they remember the old trees fondly, as I will.