Sadly, all living things must eventually die, no matter their beauty. But with death, often comes new life.
This is the case at the Turlock Unified School District Office on the corner of Canal Drive and Colorado Avenue, where this winter TUSD staff will begin an estimated two-year process to remove 22 American elm trees that are dead or rapidly dying.
TUSD Director of Maintenance and Operations Scott Richardson says a combination of fungi, rot and ants have contributed to the elm trees downfall. The trees were planted alongside Canal Drive and Colorado Avenue, right next to the sidewalk in the early 1960s but some evidence suggest they could have been planted even earlier in the 1940s or 50s.
From the exterior, the trees may appear healthy, but closer inspection reveals massive hollowed out trunks and branches that could fall at any moment. Essentially only the exterior structures of trees remain. An arborist report noted, “the trees show likelihood of failure at any moment.”
On May 18 of this year, a 30-inch diameter branch fell off an elm tree onto the District Office, causing minor physical damage but major damage to the entire TUSD communication network. In August TUSD staff removed another large branch that was clearly on the verge of falling.
“Our number one concern here is safety,” said Richardson. “This winter we will start removing the trees in the worst condition.”
Winter is actually the best time to remove the trees because in spring the weight of the leaves could cause further structural failures.
The good news is that young, healthy trees will be planted in approximate area of the removed elm trees. Currently TUSD is considering trees that maintain a historic look and have narrowed their list of replacement trees down to the Northern Red Oak and the October Glory Red Maple, which both are prevalent in the Turlock area.
The red oak same a similar round structure as an elm tree and they are known to produce good foliage which blazes red and orange during the fall.
Red maple has a more upright pyramid shape and is the more prevalent around town of the two tree choices. However, the red maple can be more susceptible to root disease.
On Colorado Ave, to the right of the TUSD District Office main entrance, there are two layers of elm trees that will be removed. Richardson says the second layer could include other trees such as tulip poplars, to provide variety.
It is estimated the tree removal project will cost $22,000.