The Coast News Group
A Monterey cypress on Melba Road was recently added to the city's official Heritage Tree list. Photo courtesy of the City of Encinitas
A Monterey cypress on Melba Road was planted in 1938. Photo courtesy of the City of Encinitas

Monterey cypress in Old Encinitas makes city’s heritage list

ENCINITAS — An 80-year-old Monterey cypress in Old Encinitas — one of 24 left in the city — was recently added to the city’s list of heritage trees. 

The Encinitas Planning Commission approved a Heritage Tree nomination on Aug. 18 for the Monterey cypress, or Hesperocyparis macrocarpa, located within the public right-of-way on Melba Road across from Wotan Drive. 

Courtney Marsh, the Heritage Tree nominator who lives behind the tree, was unable to speak on the agenda item but was backed by her fellow residents. 

Resident Jeryl Anne Kessler told commissioners the cypress was a “truly historic and majestic” monument of the city and “it deserves respect.”

The second speaker to address the Heritage Tree designation — which had a motion to be removed from the action agenda and added to the consent calendar — chose to speak to the Planning Commission to express appreciation. 

Jennifer Hewitson said she has walked Melba Road for decades, failing to “consider that they won’t always be there.” 

“I am here to appreciate and to acknowledge that what we have will not remain without our vigilance, especially as development threatens to irreparably alter our older neighborhoods,” Hewitson said

Hewitson also thanked the Marsh family for “caring for this bold being for many years.” 

Under the goals of the Urban Forest Management Program, the city aims to protect its urban forests and heritage trees— trees of significance within the city. 

A nomination must include one of the four stipulations to have eligible community importance: historic significance associated with an historic building, site, street, person or event; or is a defining landmark or outstanding feature of a neighborhood.

Also, the Planning Commission may approve designation if they find that it is one of the oldest and largest of it’s species, it has a unique form or other defining landmark/feature. 

The Monterey cypress on Melba was planted in 1938 and is one of the oldest and largest trees in Encinitas.  The tree is a healthy 45-feet tall and has a diameter 20 inches — wider than the other four larger Monterey cypress trees in the city.

While the historical submissions of the tree have not been verified, Marsh included in her application the 1938 plantings of Anton van Amersfoort, former owner of the San Diego Botanic Garden.

A Dutch immigrant, van Amersfoort created an alley of Monterey cypress trees near what is now Quail Gardens Drive — the applicant believes the Melba cypress to be one of these seedlings.  

The other Heritage Trees in Encinitas are the Cockspur coral, or Erythrina crista-galli, in the 600 block of Strafford Drive. 

The other may be more recognizable to residents. The Norfolk Island Pine that is lit up during Christmastime between 4th and C streets was designated a Heritage Tree in 2011. 

“I definitely feel that this tree is a special tree,” Planning Commissioner Susan Sherod said of her pride in the city for protecting its trees.