Even before they were part of a city park, the trees at Fuji Park were important to Dee Dee Foremaster — particularly the giant cottonwood.
“We had picnics under that tree,” she said. “We had birthday parties under that tree.”
And she imagines others enjoyed the tree — which may be 150 years old or more — before her.
“I’m sure pioneers probably lounged underneath it for shade before they headed up the grade,” she said.
But parks officials say the two old-growth trees in the park pose a threat to the public and must go.
“No one is happy about having to remove these trees but they are clearly public safety problems,” Roger Moellendorf, Carson City Parks and recreation director, said in an email. “We have performed hazardous pruning on the trees and yet large branches still fall from the trees.”
Moellendorf pointed to an incident this summer when a large branch fell on a vendor’s booth during the state fair.
“Luckily, it happened about 3 a.m., and no one was around,” he said. “It makes me shudder to think what would have happened if it had happened during the day when the vendor was in operation and there were lots of people milling about.”
However, Foremaster remembers it to have been a particularly windy day and suggested the park close to the public during high winds.
She also recommended the park build a fence around the trees that could be locked during dangerous situations.
“It would be a shame to just cut them down without considering other alternatives,” she said. “They don’t just go around cutting down Redwoods because they’re afraid branches might fall on someone.”
Moellendorf said a temporary fence has been erected, but said it was not an effective long-term solution.
“High winds may still cause limbs to fall outside of the perimeter and the trees themselves may fall,” he said. “In addition, because of the immense size of these trees, a fenced off perimeter removes a lot of useable area from the park.”
And it won’t just be people losing the trees, Foremaster said, an owl’s nest sits at the top of the tree near the dog park.
Moellendorf said it will find a home elsewhere.
“The owl tree is next to the dog park which attracts a lot of people and cars are parked near it. This tree has a large amount of dead wood in its upper canopy,” he said. “Raptors, owls and other wildlife use and need old growth trees. We preserve those trees in natural areas just for that purpose. It would be extremely risky and fool hardy to preserve such a tree in a developed park.”
He said the department consulted a certified arborist who recommended the trees be removed.
“Cottonwoods while fast growing are not especially long lived, and as they grow older they become susceptible to a variety of decay that eventually compromises their structural stability,” he said. “The trees have had a long useful life and have presented many benefits to the park, it is however, sadly time for them to go. We will plant replacements.”
Foremaster said these trees are the latest in a series of old trees that have been removed by the city. She worries there won’t be any left soon.
“It’s a shame we don’t have a policy to protect these trees,” she said. “Wake up, Carson City, you’re destroying a part of your history.
“It breaks my heart.”
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org or (775) 220-5333.