Owls well in Pacific Beach when neighbors discuss Canary Island pines
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 04/12/15 - 07:05 AM | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The three huge Canary Island pine trees on Felspar Street. / Photo by Dave Schwab
The three huge Canary Island pine trees on Felspar Street. / Photo by Dave Schwab
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A recent incident involving displaced barn owls, huge pine trees threatened with removal and Pacific Beach neighbors concerned for the health of wildlife and their environment apparently turns out to have had a happy ending.

Message lines on Nextdoor.com were lighting up recently with back-and-forth discussions by neighbors about a local property owner’s plans to cut down three Canary Island pine trees on Felspar Street. Those trees, it turns out, harbored a nest of protected owls, who had previously relocated from a nearby trimmed palm tree.

“They’re beautiful trees, healthy; there was no reason to take them down,” contended neighbor Judy Swanick, who noted the owl’s nest found in one of the trees changed the situation entirely.

So Swanick got busy on Nextdoor.com asking neighbors for advice on what government agency to contact to alert them about threatened protected wildlife.

“People were kind enough to send names and agencies,” she said, adding the appropriate agency turned out to be the California Department of Birds and Wildlife, which intervened to halt the pine trees’ removal.

Swanick said this was a “beautiful example” of neighbors banding together to accomplish something they couldn’t have done separately.

The arborist who trimmed — but did not cut down — the Felspar Street Canary Island pines talked about the task their company had been charged with.

“The man who owns the property on which the trees stand was concerned about the liability created by the trees' roots appearing to lift the sidewalk and push over the neighbor's fence, causing it to lean to one side, and their pinecones falling and landing on a person's head or car,” said Kim Morlan, who, along with husband John, operates Morlans' arboricultural consulting, which was engaged by property owner James Tam to remove the pines.

Noting that they “really don't like removals because historically we have been able to find other solutions,” Kim Morlan said this case was no exception.

“After doing a bit of digging, we discovered the root in question wasn't from a pine tree at all but rather appeared to belong to a Ficus tree, known for having large roots, which often displace hardscape,” she said.

Morlan added subsequent inspection of Google Earth Pro images revealed remnants of a Ficus tree that used to be in the neighbor's front yard.

“This root ran alongside the fence, between the trunk of one of the pines and the fence,” Morlan said. “We had to remove it because it would continue to displace the fence as the pine tree's trunk diameter would enlarge, pushing the root into the fence.”

Morlan said, after the offending root was removed, a material known as BioBarrier was used along the fence to “prevent any further complications.”

Tam said he hired the tree trimmers because tree roots “had pushed the retaining wall to (his) neighbor’s property.”

I did not do anything to affect nature,” Tam said, adding the problem existed before he bought the property. “That’s nature. I can’t do anything about that. Nobody said anything to me about a bird nest up there.”

Swanick said the story does in fact have a happy ending because “Both renters and homeowners joined in discussion adding small bits of info that, put together, made it possible to cut through multiple government agencies and related bureaucratic delays so that before 24 hours had passed these trees that were scheduled to be cut down completely remained standing.

“I see this as a potential motivational story to get individuals to meet with their neighbors through sharing their concern for well-being of both trees and wildlife,” Swanick said.

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