LEUCADIA — As the city embarks on a detailed plan to beautify the North Coast Highway 101, some residents and business owners are confused by the lack of coordination with other agencies to protect and preserve the historical tree canopy shading much of the expanse of the area.
The latest glitch in the communication between the city and the community occurred Feb. 22 as the North County Transit District stopped a tree crew that was felling Eucalyptus trees on the eastern edge of Highway 101 near Diana Street.
As is commonplace, the city is responsible for placing notifications on trees that are slated for removal. However, community members said they had not been notified of the work as promised.
NCTD Communications Director Alex Wiggins confirmed that the agency responsible for maintaining the area along the railroad corridor is required to give proper notice to residents prior to any tree removal.
“We have an agreement with the city of Encinitas and residents that adequate notice be given,” Wiggins said in an interview. “Because that notification had not occurred, we stopped. We’re not just removing trees for the sake of taking them down.”
In fact, Wiggins said part of the miscommunication stemmed from the time lapse between the decision to remove the trees and the actual work. “We started this process in the fall of 2009,” he said. “We (NCTD) hired an arborist to determine the health of the trees and 11 were in danger of falling on the right of way or were diseased.”
“I’m a tree hugger myself,” Wiggins claimed. “Cutting and removing trees is a last resort.”
Wiggins said NCTD should have gone back to the city to remind it of the impending tree removal. “That was a failure on our part,” he said. NCTD staff is now working with the city to hash out the details of advancing the tree removal in a timely, but reasonable manner. “We’re invested in doing whatever it takes to explain the reasoning behind the tree removal to the community,” he said.
Morgan Mallory, a Leucadia Highway 101 Mainstreet board member, resident and longtime business owner, said he was surprised to find crews firing up chainsaws as he opened his gallery on Highway 101. “I asked them what they were doing, we had no notice,” he said.
Like many other community members, Mallory is anxious to see the ratio of trees go up rather than down. He said the first phase of the streetscape calling for 101 trees is exciting. However, the planting isn’t scheduled for at least five years.
“The trees that are there now, we’re hoping that they can be trimmed rather than cut down as long as there’s no imminent danger.”
Mallory served on the specific plan committee of the North Highway 101 corridor 19 years ago. “We’ve had all sorts of workshops over the years to get community input and restoring and maintaining the tree canopy is always one of the top priorities,” Mallory said.
The trees flanking both sides of Highway 101 are a defining characteristic of Leucadia. “They help to maintain a little of the rural flavor of our community,” according to Mallory.
“We’ve seen removal after removal and it’s become unsightly,” he said. “We’re hoping to form a camaraderie with NCTD so that we can understand their dire need to remove trees along the corridor and they can understand our desire to have the aesthetics maintained with the tree canopy.”
There are concerns that NCTD is actually removing trees that are situated along the city’s right of way or at least shared. While Wiggins denies the allegation and maintains that only trees that pose an “imminent danger” of falling onto NCTD’s right of way are slated for removal, others point to the long time lapse as proof that the perceived threat is overamplified.
“I’m only going to hope that this is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing,” said a nearby business owner who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s sad that our city and NCTD can’t get it together to post signs and notify the community,” she said. “But it would be worse if the city knew NCTD was cutting trees that were its responsibility to maintain just to get it over with and have no regard for keeping a part of our history alive.”
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