Tree removal raises musings about rules

David Briggs
The removal of a privet, a tree-like shub that is considered invasive, sparked upset that made its way to an inconclusive discussion at the Point Reyes Station Village Association’s meeting this month. 

Attendees at the recent village association meeting discussed the removal of a reportedly dying tree in downtown Point Reyes, stirring questions of who exactly has jurisdiction over tree removal along Highway One and which policy should prevail when trees are ousted.

The plant was located between the Grandi Building and Into the Blue, between the street and the sidewalk.

But the tree in question, a privet, is actually a shrub, Tom Kent of Pacific Slope Tree Company told the Light. It is not ideal for urban environments, he said, as its roots undermine sidewalks and its lifespan is short, 20 years at most. The nearby oak tree, located toward the center of the block, had also shown itself to be the “dominant” tree, he said, explaining that the privet was interrupting the aesthetic appreciation by passersby.

In fact, the sale and cultivation of the species is banned in New Zealand because its pollen can spark asthma and eczema. Its fruit, which can be prodigious, are also mildly toxic to humans, though birds consume it.

Mr. Kent and Marshall Livingston, who manages that block, decided together that the tree should be removed.

Board member Pamela Bridges tried to find out which agency, or if property owners, had jurisdiction in the area but her investigation came up empty after hours of calls and research. “No one really knows,” she said. She was charged with attempting to find an answer by the next meeting.

Attendee Melanie Stone, who owns Zuma, said CalTrans had repaired the sidewalk outside her store in the past, but it was unclear whether that agency would have any responsibility if the plant had not actually broken the sidewalk.

A question also arose as to whether there should be a policy of replacing cut-down trees. One attendee bristled at the idea that trees belonged downtown, arguing that their overwhelming presence would clash with the town’s historic, sparse character. “This is a western town,” Chuck Eckart said, though he added, “A few trees are okay.” 

Others seemed to agree with his view, though someone else countered, “I personally like having trees.”