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San Clemente Journal

Trees Please

Mar 05, 2015 01:33PM ● By Donia Moore

by Donia Moore

Usually, people think of San Clemente in terms of balmy beaches and swaying palm trees. But there’s another part of San Clemente that is rapidly gaining the interest of the public, thanks to the San Clemente Tree Foundation. Led by former San Clemente City Planner Patricia Holloway, membership is growing as citizens realize that there is danger in the air for some of our more fragile living history.

Losing a precious resource

It appears that we stand to lose a precious resource and piece of San Clemente history: our trees, and not just any trees. Native specimens like California Coastal Live Oak, Eucalyptus, and Jacaranda trees are on the list. San Clemente has long had a “tree canopy”, planned for, planted and protected by the City’s Masterplan Landscaping Scenic Corridors Plan.

Patricia Holloway started her career with the City of San Clemente as a  City Planner working with landscapers to develop that plan 20-years-ago, after a very successful planning career with the City of  San Juan Capistrano. Most of the trees along our Scenic Corridor routes, such as in Rancho San Clemente or Forester Ranch, were planted long before housing developments were built there.

“In our Municipal code, the City is charged with looking after and protecting the trees in the corridors,” says Patricia. “The Plan states that the first line of trees in all scenic corridors is to be maintained by the City of San Clemente. If the trees end up outside the public right-of-way, the City is bound to obtain an easement from the property owners, whether HOAs or private owners.

 “There has been an increasing loss of trees in the tree canopy in the ranch areas due to disease, vandalism and actions by owners not aware that the trees are protected by San Clemente’s Municipal code. These lost trees are not being replaced. Our Foundation’s goal is to educate the community about the necessity of protecting and replacing these beautiful but vanishing species, and to assist the City in maintaining the Municipal code of the original Masterplan for Landscaping in the Scenic Corridor areas”,  Patricia explains.

Part of the problem is that many private tree maintenance companies are not properly educated about the correct methods of pruning trees. Other conflicts arise with homeowners’ ocean views, which are not protected in San Clemente. Trees, however, are. Help may be on the way.



Tree City USA

With the Tree Foundation’s help and support, San Clemente may soon be designated as a Tree City, USA.  By gaining this distinction, the Tree Foundation will be eligible to apply for grants to purchase new replacement trees and help to maintain them for the City. In order to be considered for membership in this elite organization of cities, Tree City USA  cities must meet certain criteria. The member cities must have an organized group; a tree ordinance; commit to a minimum of $2 per capita budget to plant and maintain the trees; and must have an Arbor Day celebration and secure a City proclamation. Patricia feels that San Clemente can meet all of these conditions.

Joining Patricia in this effort are: Georgette Kersen; Dana Baillie; John Hazeltine; and Steve Netherby, loosely forming the core of the San Clemente Tree Foundation Board. Brian Hanigan, a landscape architect, has even come up with a logo and slogan, soon to grace bumper stickers that you may be seeing around town. Rod Rodriguez, who originally planted all the palm trees for Bertha Henry, has supplied valuable information about areas where trees once stood.  Bertha Henry, shortly before her death, pleaded with Patricia to carry on replacing the trees, and adding new palm trees along El Camino Real.

Joint Community Action

The group is working with the City, community organizations and schools already on projects like landscaping the North Beach Community Association’s traffic circle; assisting with replanting Bonita Canyon; holding an Arbor Day Celebration; and hosting guest speaker talks on native plants and animals. An exhibit about John Muir may be on tap later in 2014.

Next time you think about San Clemente, look around and notice all the trees. Maybe your thoughts will include how you can help to keep those palm trees swaying…along with the California Coastal Live Oaks, the Eucalyptus and the Jacarandas in our hillside scenic corridor tree canopies. 

For more information, contact Patricia Holloway at the Tree Foundation:










So you want to go “Native”… Tips on Caring for Native Species

We are blessed with a wonderful growing season for natives here in San Clemente.

The best times of year to plant native species are in early spring and late fall, to take advantage of the rains that come later in both of those seasons, helping the trees develop a much sturdier root system. While native species can be planted at other times, their success rate will depend on the amount of care and regular watering given to them as they are getting established. Follow these watering tips to keep your natives beautiful and healthy.

·      Regular watering anywhere from twice a week to twice a month, depending on soil and weather conditions for the first two to four years

·      Test to see how long your soil holds moisture by checking six to eight inches below the surface

·      Over watering as much as under watering can cause stress in native.

·      After supplemental watering for six to nine months, taper off and allow the native to begin adapting to the local environment.

It actually takes 20 years for a tree to reach full growth. Some trees, like the California Coastal Live Oak are very slow growing trees and require longer. If the trees are not able to develop a strong root system going down into the ground water, it will not be as stable or sturdy as it needs to be to withstand natural weather aberrations.

Pruning also affects tree health. Unfortunately, according to Richard “Rod” Rodriguez of Rod’s Tree Service, most tree companies hired by organizations have not been taught the proper methods for pruning trees, and tend to cut straight across with a chain saw without giving thought to how the health of the tree is affected.

·      All trees should be pruned when they are dormant or in a slow-growth period

·      Deciduous trees should be pruned lightly, as needed, when they are leafless and dormant

·      Coast live oaks should only be pruned in summer months, when their growth rate has greatly slowed

·      Pruning of mature trees should be restricted to removal of dead branches and the few that truly weaken the plant’s structure, such as crossed branches

·      Removing dead branches, especially those dangerous to people or property, should be done when necessary

For all mature trees, very little live growth should be removed. In fact, many cities have strict regulations on tree pruning, particularly for heritage or native trees. Be sure to consult with city officials before pruning any oak or other significant trees.