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Residents say numbers of trees dwindling

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The city is putting Washington Park under the microscope after some residents raised concerns that trees and open space were slowly disappearing from Burlingame’s crown jewel.

While some residents argue that deforestation is a growing problem, city officials say, that Washington Park is nearly filled to capacity with trees. Figures from the Parks and Recreation department also show that citywide, more trees have been planted than removed.

Residents Charles Voltz said that over the last 20 years there appeared to be a slow loss of green space in the park. He and others, including resident Stephen Hamilton, are calling for the city to prepare a schedule and budget for replanting.

"There’s an awful lot of deforestation, not just in Burlingame, but nationwide," Hamilton said. "But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of reforestation."

Newly appointed Parks and Recreation Commissioner and Washington Park neighbor Susan Castner-Paine said that anticipating further in advance when trees will need to be replaced would be one option. The commission has asked city staff to prepare a report addressing Voltz’ concerns, to be presented at a meeting in January.

"I want to make the commission aware that there are many Burlingame residents who care about the trees in this park," Castner-Paine said. "I expect city staff will be receptive to that as well."

Predicting when specific trees should come down, however, would be a tough task, particularly since the city likes to hold on to trees as long as possible, Parks Supervisor Bob Disco said. Disco, who keeps tabs on all the trees in Washington Park, said he has already identified some trees that are diseased. However, he can’t tell exactly how long they will live or if and when they will start presenting safety issues.

"It could be three years, five years, it’s really hard to tell," Disco said.

The city only removes trees if they become weak due to age or disease or present a safety threat. In 2006, the city has planted at least 16 trees, including oaks, maples and crabapple, and removed six in the 17-acre park, according to Parks Superintendent Tim Richmond. Two of those removed trees blew down in the storms earlier this year and others suffered from Pine Pitch Canker disease.

"The skyline of the park changes every time one of these big trees comes down," Richmond said. "I’m sure that’s what regular park visitors have concerns about."

Trees have become a hot issue in the city lately, particularly with the planned removal of an Easton Drive eucalyptus tree that was chewing up the roadway and presenting public safety problems, according to city staff. A City Council hearing on that issue is scheduled in January.

Trees in the park

Removed: 504

Planted: 736

» The next planting scheduled in mid-January should add approximately 57 more street trees, minus six to eight more removals.

-Source: Burlingame Parks and Recreation Department

tramroop@examiner.com