Illegal tree removal fuels a reckoning in Marina. | Monterey County NOW Intro

Celia Jiménez here, remembering that the trees were one of the first things I noticed– and loved – of Monterey County when I first came to the area in 2014. Over the past few months, I’ve learned that many locals are also passionate about keeping tall trees in their neighborhoods – like Rebecca Lee of Pacific Grove, who tried to save a century-old elm tree in Jewell Park, or the letters Weekly received after Christopher Neely’s report of eucalyptus clearing in Big Sur and Elkhorn Slough.

Tomorrow the city of Marina will hold a special meeting and one of the items on the agenda is a discussion on tree felling, including compensation for trees that are illegally removed and changes to ensure compliance with regulations.

This meeting was sparked after developer Marina Community Partners removed trees near Second Avenue, part of The Dunes development. Last March, we received emails from concerned citizens of Marina saying that the trees on Second Avenue had been felled illegally. They described the trees as important to preserving “the historic Monterey Cypress Urban Forest on ancient Fort Ord.”

Mayor Bruce Delgado says this is actually the second time developer Marina Community Partners has illegally removed trees. About a year ago, the developer cleared the coast’s live oaks in the second phase of the dunes east of Hilltop Park, he says.

Marina’s current ordinance states that trees cannot be cut during nesting season, February through May. (A Marina Community Partners contractor cut the Second Avenue trees on March 21, according to a report from Marina Guide Community Development Manager F. Persicone to City Council.) “There was no biological survey of bats or birds and we don’t know what wildlife might have been lost when these trees were cut down; no sightings were made before the trees were cut down,” Delgado explains.

Delgado says the city and developers are working with Marina residents to make sure this doesn’t happen a third time, and to rebuild the confidence of the inhabitants. According to Persicone’s report, at a community meeting on May 2, Marina Community Partners “apologized to the community for inadvertently removing trees and committed to working closely with the City of Marina to make sure this mistake doesn’t happen again. They also agreed to retain 24 additional trees in the future, beyond what had previously been approved.

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How to balance the removal of trees – necessary at some level, to make way for new construction –with the protection of existing habitat is a sensitive issue everywhere. But the underlying idea is that developers hold their end of the bargain.

City’s current ordinance requires replacement of illegally felled trees at a 6-to-1 ratio. “That won’t satisfy anyone,” Degado says, adding that six small trees don’t outweigh the benefits of one big tree.

The city council will discuss the various options on Tuesday. These include keeping some large trees or moving them to another location (which costs more than cutting down a tree) or ensuring that trees are not damaged during construction.

Without a doubt, trees are a very important aspect of our landscape and our local ecosystem.. If you want to voice your opinion, you can tune in tomorrow May 10 at 6 p.m. during the special Zoom meeting.

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About Patricia Kilgore

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