Almost a year after the controversial removal of a number of ficuses from the downtown Santa Monica area, Treesavers, the group founded to save local trees, may be moving into a new phase of working with the City on tree conservation.On April 15, Treesavers members met with Director of Community Maintenance Joan Akins, Public Landscape Manager Randy Little, and Community Forester and Public Landscape Superintendent Walt Warriner. The idea was to ”build cooperation” between tree activists and the City, according to meeting organizer Jerry Rubin.Rubin cited recent City Council decisions that spared New Zealand Christmas trees on Colorado from removal, as well as the Council’s approval on April 7 of the creation of an Urban Forestry Task Force, which he considers an important first step toward the creation of a Urban Forestry Commission.Joan Akins told the group that in the next few weeks, applications will be available for people to apply to the Task Force. “We hope to get it together in about four weeks and get it back to the Council.” As the Task Force works on a new Master Plan that will influence tree policies for the next 50 years, community meetings will be held in order to get public input. Akins also said that at the next City Council meeting on April 28, the City will hear recommendations on the hiring of a consultant to help create the Master Plan.“ I look forward to this group giving us input with their expertise as we move along in this project,” Akins concluded.Little said that the City plans to “GIS” Santa Monica’s trees, and when asked what that meant, he apologized laughingly for his use of an acronym, explaining that “GIS” stands for Geographic Information System, which locates the position of each tree. Little also said that the City will be attempting to establish the age of the trees. Warriner, a 13-year employee with the City, spoke of his “long-range vision” for trees in Santa Monica.“When you’re dealing with trees, you’re dealing with decades and generations. What is Santa Monica going to look like in 50 years? I have a responsibility to the next generation.”While Warriner’s demeanor seemed cooperative and open to most people who attended, a few activists, still angry about the ficus tree incident of 2008, vented their feelings during a question and answer session. They mentioned the electric lights attached to the surviving ficuses on 2nd and 4th Street as a form of abuse to the trees.Warriner explained that trees “adapt” to their urban environment and that ficuses are particularly resilient. He denied that the holes bored in the trees to hold the light fixtures have caused permanent damage.Although a few remarks aimed at Warriner were accusatory, he remained calm and emphasized that from hereon, the community will be heard.“Come to the community meetings,” he urged the group. “It’s not going to be just us talking to you-it will be you talking to us. But it will be educational, too.”
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