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Title:

A tree fell in Brookside, with terrifying results

Subtitle:

Date:

2015-07-29

Summary:

July 29, 2015 - The Star-News editorial examines the concerns that have been raised by the injury of eight children in Brookside Park. -

Author:

Editorial Board

Publication:

Pasadena Star-News

Content:


The big pine in question in Brookside Park. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)

The toppling tree that fell on eight children in Pasadenaís Brookside Park Tuesday created trauma of heartbreaking proportions, and our thoughts are with those injured and their families.

To have a pine some 70 feet tall and perhaps 75 years of age suddenly uproot with a roar and come down on summer day-campers waiting for pickup outside Kidspace Childrenís Museum ó itís so out of the blue, so random, so tragic.

Trees provide beauty and shade, a home for birds and squirrels, lumber for our houses, oils and saps and medicines, and, for that matter, sweet maple syrup.

But trees do fall, as trees always have. We canít be protected against all of the hazards of living in the natural world. Every time we step out of doors, we are subject to not only the glories of nature but also the hazards. Sunshine is swell, and yet it in overdose can cause burns and even skin cancer. The breeze is nice, but the tornado is not. Thereís a stroll on the shoreline and then thereís the tsunami rolling in. Thatís the world for you.

Itís still not known just why the tree in question here fell over. Itís rather amazing to think that in this specialized age there are essentially forensic arborists who are studying it and will soon be able to give us a very educated guess as to why it did fall. If it fell over in the middle of the night, no one would be talking about it ó and presumably, no one would have been injured. The tree would have been chopped up and hauled away, as trees are every day.

But the speculation is natural, and the desire to get to the bottom of the story is good. Here in the fourth year of Californiaís drought, we have been properly warned that losing some lawns and surface vegetation is not the real problem for our flora. But losing trees is. In our older cities such as Pasadena, we have created an urban tree canopy over the last 150 years that provides significant cooling relief for our homes, our yards, our walkable downtown boulevards and our public outdoor spaces such as historic Brookside, one of the most utilized parks in the San Gabriel Valley.

So people will be asking lots of questions: Did the drought fell the tree? Trees to thrive require deep-watering so that their roots, which act as a counterweight to their towering branches, stay healthy ó was this pine getting water deep down to make up for the four-year lack of rain?

And the city of Pasadena, to its credit, is endeavoring to answer those questions. City leaders say that, though they are cutting back on irrigating elsewhere to meet the stateís 25-percent reduction requirements, they have kept up watering trees and lawns in city parks. Not only that ó they say the large trees that could cause a danger such as those in the forest of pines, sycamores and oaks in Brookside Park are inspected on a quarterly basis.

Knowing that families and citizens might be suspicious of assurances from city staff, Pasadena hired an independent arborist to perform an investigation into why the pine came crashing down, and the results should be available soon. Itís a cautionary tale. But the last thing we need is a movement of, say, Parents Against Trees, taking a better-safe-than-sorry, chainsaw-based approach. In this drought, in this urban heat island, we donít need fewer trees. We need more of them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The editorial board supervises the Opinion pages for the Los Angeles News Group's nine publications: Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star News, Whittier Daily News and the Redlands Daily Facts. Reach the author at opinion@langnews.com or follow The Editorial on Twitter: @SoCalOpinion.

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