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Grass-roots group fights to save historic Chico trees

By Jerry Olenyn, jolenyn@krcrtv.com
Published On: Jan 08 2014 06:56:14 PM CST

3rd & Chestnut (before tree removal)

CHICO, Calif. -

Chico is known as the city of trees. The city’s tree-lined streets add to the city’s beauty and charm.   But the removal of some of Chico’s oldest trees, has some residents concerned.  Charles Withuhn is the head of a group called Chico Tree Advocates, which currently has about 40 members.

”They're an energy-saving factor,” said Withuhn. “They're beautiful," said Withuhn about Chico's historic trees.

Withuhn has organized the grass-roots effort to keep as many of Chico's trees off the city's chopping block as possible.

"Our urban forest is a gift from our fathers’ fathers," said Withuhn. "We will be remembered for taking care of this rare and precious gift."

Despite efforts by Withuhn and other tree advocates, six huge, leafy walnut trees at Third and Chestnut Streets were chopped down to make room for sidewalks.  According to certified arborist Dan Gibson, at least three of them could have been saved.

"I thought they were in good enough health and structural stability that they could have been saved," said Gibson.

Gibson said the cost to save the three trees would have been about $50,000.  Instead, he said, each tree was sold by the city for a small sum.

The death of a Chico State student from a falling tree limb is a reminder that in some cases, safety requires some trees be removed.  

But what about the towering valley oak tree at West Eighth and Salem streets?  It’s slated to be removed to make room for a Chico State construction-management project.

"It appears to be a large, beautiful structurally-sound oak tree that provides a great canopy for that corner," said Gibson.  

These tree advocates pose the question, where does progress start and heritage end?

"I think the City of Chico and the general public need to take a hard look at how the urban forest is being managed,” said Gibson.

Chico city leaders must balance the issues of aesthetics, public safety and finances, all in the city with a huge oak tree as its emblem.

We tried to reach the city for comment, but our calls were not returned.