UC plans to cut down several hundred trees at the Gill Tract in Albany

trees on the Gill Tract 1

The Monterey pine grove on the Gill Tract of Albany will soon disappear. Photo by Linjun Fan.

Several hundred trees on the Gill Tract in Albany will be cut down by the University of California at Berkeley soon, causing concerns from a number of residents in the community.

All the 317 Monterey pines, which have grown into a dense grove on the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Buchanan Street in the past half century, need to be cut down because many of them are infected with pitch canker and could hurt passers-by when falling onto streets,  according to university staff.

Albany Mayor Robert Lieber said he was skeptical of the plan, and questioned whether it’s necessary to cut down all the Monterey pines, some of which are still healthy.

“I think the amount of trees they are proposing to cut down is disproportionate to the actual need, ” said Robert Lieber.

184 of the trees, which are within 70 feet from the street sides, will be cut down beginning on Jan.28, and the rest 133 will be brought down in a later phase, according to Glenda Rubin, assistant director of Community Relations of the university.

A majority of the pines are now infected with pitch canker, some of which are dead or dying, according to Brice McPherson, a researcher of the university who studied the condition of the trees several months ago.

“If the trees must be removed because they are dead or are hanging over the streets, if those trees are cut down, then the remaining trees, even if they are not ill or not infected, are going to be much likely to be blown over in a windstorm, ”  McPherson said.

trees with pitch canker 

About a dozen Monterey pines in the grove are dead or dying due to the disease pitch canker, leaning on other trees or fallen onto the ground. Photo by Linjun Fan.

The Monterey pines at the Gill Tract, a 14-acre agriculture research field owned by the university, were planted in the 1960s by university researchers for genetics studies. Pitch canker was first detected in them in the 1990s, according to McPherson.

Some Albany residents criticized the university for not taking actions at an earlier time.

“They should have had some plan in place to replant trees that continue to provide benefit, rather than coming in and taking out hundreds of trees at one fell swoop, ” said Kim Linden, a member of the Park and Recreation Commission of Albany.

Linden said that the trees have been providing a variety of “green benefits”to the community, including oxygen and open space, and cutting them all down would be a shock to people who are used to seeing the trees everyday.

“It’s sad to see they go. I see them everyday right from my window. It will be really different at that corner, ” said Albany Assistant City Administrator Judy Lieberman whose office locates opposite the street from the pine grove.

“But if the trees are hazardous, and they are going to fall down on the streets and kill someone, you don’t want that to happen, ” Lieberman added.

The Albany City Council will discuss the tree-cutting plan at its upcoming meeting on Jan.22.

Mayor Lieber said that he would try to prevent the healthy trees from being cut down.

“We don’t have much control over what the university will ultimately do, ” Lieber said. “But we will be able to slow down that process. “

The university originally decided to cut all the trees down in one phase, but changed to the current two-phase plan due to funding shortage, according to Phil Cody, manager of Campus Grounds Services of the university.

The several-acre land will be seeded with grass and wildflowers after the trees are gone. The university said that it hadn’t decided what the land would be used for in future, but the tree-cutting work was unrelated to a development plan on  land nearby.

“The proposed commercial and housing development site, further south along San Pablo Avenue is not part of the property where the trees are located, ” a university notice said.

Click here to read the full text of the notice.

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8 Responses to UC plans to cut down several hundred trees at the Gill Tract in Albany

  1. Cristina says:

    Why don’t they plant new trees?
    Wild flowers and grass… that means a future development on that land.
    You will see… UC is about “show me the $$$”.
    Very disapointing,

  2. Assissotom says:

    Very good site! I like it! Thanks!

  3. Brian says:

    I am an Albany resident who is also a UC employee. I am responding as a resident and not a spokesperson for the University. I find it interesting that mayor Lieber believes that not all the trees on UC Property need to come down. He has previously stated that he intends to “slow down” the process of the infected trees removal even though they may pose a hazard to people and property on nearby sidewalks and streets. It might serve the mayor to defer these matters to city staff before making comments to the press.
    Tony Wolcott, Albany’s Master arborist, said he has seen the trees, and agreed with university that they were diseased and needed to be removed. He states “There isn’t any sense in trying to save any of them. They’re going to die. The pine pitch canker is pretty devastating. There’s not anything that we can do as far as curing the problem. From a public safety point of view, they should come out.” He also stated that the trees that weren’t infected should be removed as they might not be accustomed to the wind with the other trees gone and that might lead to failure of those trees.
    While the loss of 300 trees is saddening I think I might defer to the experts on this matter and I believe any intentional “slowing down” of the process could be putting the public in danger.

  4. [...] and Chairman of Albany Waterfront Committee Brian Parker wrote a commentary on the controversy over UC’s tree-cutting plan at the Gill Tract, responding to a previous commentary on Albany [...]

  5. [...] urged University of California at Berkeley to suspend its plan to cut down several hundred pines on the Gill Tract, otherwise it would seek a court injunction to [...]

  6. [...] Albany is still asking the university to replant trees after cutting down the current ones, which is not part of the university’s plan. [...]

  7. Mark Bowman says:

    I quote: “Then, we must smile at our swaggering arborist “experts” giving testimony at the city council meeting. Where have these responsible arborists been over the last 20 years? Not a single pine limb trimmed. Not a single pine tree thinned out to allow the others to grow stronger. And this in a property in plain view across the street from the City Hall. One outspoken so-called expert hadn’t even taken the time to strut the 20 or 30 steps required to actually look at the Gill Tract trees; yet, he was certain they must all be cut down immediately, sight unseen.”

    “The Gill Tract trees must be an embarrassment to the professional tree people who committed tree negligence on University property. Albany shouldn’t suffer the loss of a gem of an urban forest to cover up arborist negligence per se.”

    I found out about this web site on 1/31/08. I’m the “outspoken, swaggering so-called arborist expert” I added the previous 2 paragraphs because I wanted to make sure I quoted this idiot accurately. I may have swagger due to forces out of my control. I wouldn’t know as that would be in the eye of the beholder. But you, sir, have developed your knack for lying and smearing intentionally over a lifetime.

    “Where have these responsible arborists been over the last 20 years?” You ask?

    I’ll tell you where I’ve been Mr. Dann. I’ve been minding my own business, consulting on pathogen disorders and structural stability issues pertaining to trees and shrubs. I’ve been selling my services, to whomever invited me on to their property. Hopefully I helped them resolve certain plant issues. I can’t even begin to count the number of trees I have prevented from being cut down over the years due to my having formulated a stronger argument against the removal. How about yourself?

    I know you probably have a hard time comprehending such a simple concept as being invited on to some ones property to perform a service. I’ve been aware of your hostile take over attempts at Golden Gate Fields, the Gill Tract and the way you smear any one who disagrees with you. You obviously feel it’s an arborists duty to invite oneself on to someone else’s property; as long as it’s not your own of course, and begin tree trimming/removal operations without permission. I believe in private property rights. A fundamental difference between you and me, Mr. Dann.

    You instigated this smear knowing absolutely nothing about me. I realized at the outset that no amount of reason will sway you. You are a zealot. You didn’t think in all likelihood that I would ever respond to your smarmy little smear attempt. Wrong! This is where your radical politics and your means to achieve those ends stops; and where practical, analytical, reasonable and responsible solutions to a potentially devastating problem begins.

    I watched a repeat of the city council meeting you were referring to, and it was clear I never said any of the things you attributed to me. What is abundantly clear after analyzing what you said, is that you know absolutely nothing about trees in general and even more than absolutely nothing when it comes to the hazards that coniferous trees with pathogens such as Fusarium, Armillaria, Stereum, Endocronartium, Coleosporium, Fomes, Cryptoporus etc. etc. harbor. Yea I know, you don’t have the foggiest idea of what I just said. That leads me to my main point. Stick with what you know, that way you won’t give me the opportunity to make a fool out of you.

    I never used the term “Expert” in referring to myself. You did. Thank you by the way for your confidence in my abilities. I’m sure I am completely off based in assuming you meant that as a slur.

    I admitted at the outset (at the meeting) I had not visited the Gill Tract, and that I was responding to an article in the Albany Journal. In that article, two professional arborists, each paid for their expertise, each from opposing sides, concluded that the trees posed a significant danger to the public. I simply stated; that since Mr. Cody from UC and Mr. Wolcott, (in my opinion each representing the best interests of the citizens of Albany) agreed on this danger, that there must be a logical reason for their meeting of the minds. I never stated that the trees have to be taken down immediately. I would never make a statement like that because as I said before; I have never been on that property, remember?. To put this as diplomatically as possible; You made that up out of whole cloth. Shame on you Mr. Dann. It’s time for you to go stand in the corner, and don’t move until I tell ya.

    I took the advice of a lady who spoke after me at the 1/22/08 city council meeting, and visited the site recently on 1/31/08. I was stunned at the hazardous degree of decay permeating the stand of monterey pines. In my opinion, as a professional arborist, the city of Albany would be certifiable insane to try and stop the university from moving ahead to reduce this very real hazard. This stand of trees was in far worse condition than what I had expected to find. It has since come to my attention that at least 3 other arborists are also in agreement with the other “experts.” I know you don’t think anyone else is an expert at anything besides yourself. I know that expertise, facts and empirical evidence, are little insignificant details that don’t make any difference to you. You are a zealot

    Since I have recently seen this pine stand first hand; and since I am in full agreement with the experts opinion, I am confident that the city of Albany will keep the best interests of its citizens in mind.

    I understand an Albany city council woman, after seeing the site first hand, changed her mind on voting to push forward with a potential lawsuit. It sounds like the people who know what they’re talking about are taking the proper steps to solve this very understandable touchy issue. Like I stated at the meeting “I love trees, that’s why I’m in the business.” However, you sir twisted what I said, and then scribbled down what you wanted to hear. If there was any other logical way to deal with this issue, while keeping public safety at the fore front, I would be all ears. I would not be listening to any advice from you.

    I apologize ahead of time to any “professional tree people” who would not want to be included in the following statement: None of us were “negligent” or feel the experimental plot of monterey pines planted in the early sixties at the University of California experimental field station is an “embarrassment” in any way. I sleep like a baby. Sorry to disappoint you. I have added this disclaimer, because I know it is not my right to be speaking for other professional tree people. You, sir, willingly chose to smear all of us and particularly me without the slightest knowledge of what you were talking about. I know that a lot of valuable research on pine pathogens and genetic resistance to such was documented. I commend the plant pathologists who conducted this research. Unfortunately this experimental plot of trees has come to its physiological end and major action needs to be taken. Only a zealot would not understand this fact.

    I hope I got my point across. If so, you don’t have to stand in the corner any longer. I won’t have any discourse with you in the future unless we run into each other at a city council meeting where a subject I know something about is being discussed. I realize that you cannot have a rational discussion with an irrational person. If you had any character at all you could very easily have contacted me to find out in more detail why I felt the way I did. Better yet, you could have approached me at the city council meeting. We could have discussed the issue like 2 grown men, and then parted ways with the understanding that we have opposing viewpoints and hopefully no hard feelings. You blew that opportunity. You chose to hide behind a computer screen and assault my character knowing absolutely nothing about me. That’s the cowards way out. Have a nice day.

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