LAKESIDE, Calif. (KGTV) - In Lakeside, residents rallied to save nearly two dozen jacaranda trees, as grading for a new library began Monday.
On Monday morning, a small but determined group planted themselves in front of 25-foot-tall jacaranda trees, as feet away, as the sound of bulldozers kicked off the new Lakeside Library project.
Lakeside resident Billy Ortiz says he learned from the county two weeks ago that 22 jacaranda trees he and his grandson helped plant a decade ago, were scheduled to come down Wednesday.
“When I look at those trees, I think of my grandson … I see life. I see birds in the trees, leaves on the trees. It’s painful to think they will be gone,” said Ortiz.
The Lakeside Garden Club paid for the trees. Volunteers planted them on a property along Woodside Avenue, in tribute to some trees long gone.
Nearly 130 years ago, and a few feet away, school children planted 50 cork elms. In 1956, county officials wanted to take the trees down to widen the road. In the way was town historian Flossie Beadle.
“Tried to renegotiate with the county. She even came out, sat in front of tree with her shotgun,” said Ortiz.
Her efforts were to no avail. Some six decades later, the site of the trees planted in honor of those elms, was purchased by the county for the new library. Ortiz says he was told the trees were in an easement near water pipes and had to come down, but he believes only 13 of the trees are in the easement, and 20 feet away from pipes.
Betty McMillen led the original effort to plant the trees.
“Various groups have taken care of these trees over the years … We just don't want them to be destroyed,” said McMillen.
Amid the rally to save the trees, there was word of a possible reprieve from the project supervisor.
“He said, ‘We were advised not to touch the trees until we hear back from County,’” said Ortiz.
It now appears there will be no reprieve. A community planning group is expected to weigh in on the trees Wednesday night, but it the trees are slated to be taken down by then.
On Monday afternoon, a county spokesperson issued the following statement:
“Grading for the new Lakeside Library began today. As part of this, the Jacaranda trees at the front edge of the land alongside Woodside Avenue will have to be removed by April 9, 2021 because most were unfortunately planted by volunteers within a 50 ft. easement established by the City of San Diego to protect existing water lines that connect the property to the main water service. Others interfere with the construction of the parking lot and number of spaces we could accommodate for the library and construction of the building itself.
The County of San Diego has been working with these volunteers, and through the contractor has come up with a landscape design that includes new mature trees that will be planted beyond the 50 ft. easement because moving the existing Jacarandas is not a cost-effective option.
We also offered to have a dedication tree with a plaque recognizing lead volunteer Ms. McMillen and Flossie Beadle’s efforts in helping to beautify the community. Ms. Beadle is a historical figure from the mid-1800s who headed the original effort to preserve Lakeside’s trees,“ said Migell Acosta, director of San Diego County Library.
According to a county spokesperson, the cost of relocating the trees is $10,000 for each tree and not financially "viable."