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Fallbrook residents advocate for trees Part 1 of 2

FALLBROOK – Fallbrook residents have advocated for trees for many years. But it wasn't until 1995 that they began developing the Fallbrook treescape. That was an immense effort that gradually developed the goal of transforming our downtown and surrounding areas into a community forest.

Because Fallbrook is an unincorporated community, many enhancement efforts are led by local nonprofit organizations, including Save Our Forest (SOF) which is a committee of the Fallbrook Land Conservancy (FLC). Without the foresight, vision, and hours of work by volunteers with local organizations such as SOF, many of the landscaped and beautified areas of Fallbrook would be covered in pavement.

In 1957, the Fallbrook Woman's Club backed lining Main Street in downtown Fallbrook with trees. The tree was calodendrum capense (Cape Chestnut). Today there are only three left. Their beautiful candelabra-like displays of pink blossoms are spectacular.

It is not a surprise that a group of residents on Live Oak Park Road organized when they saw 22 trees marked with large yellow x's in late 1973. That meandering road lined with oaks and the surrounding green rolling hills were the very reason they came to Fallbrook.

Historically, it was the original Highway 395 leading settlers to the coast. Their removal was required by a new plan to widen that historic road to four lanes. The residents made an appeal to the County Board of Supervisors with the help of a San Diego attorney, a member of the Sierra Club. Two trees with significant safety issues were lost.

Twenty years later, 19 trees were again marked for destruction due to a liability lawsuit against the county. A low branch that ripped off the top of a box truck, was the issue. To support saving as many as possible of the ancient trees, we reorganized as Save the Oaks, with Roger Boddaert, the Treeman of Fallbrook, joining the effort.

The group asked the community for funds via the Chamber of Commerce. A traffic specialist was hired to make recommendations regarding heights limits, speed, signs and reflectors. Thousands of Fallbrook residents' signatures were obtained; elementary school children drew pictures; a video was made driving at a scary 45 miles per hour down the road.

Boddaert and Jackie Heyneman made a trip to present all the material to the Traffic Advisory Committee which resulted with many of those measures adopted. One giant sycamore was lost as it leaned too far into the two lane road inhibiting the passage of school buses, and a major low branch that hung over the road was removed.

That same winter, a major storm brought record rainfall that caused 17 ancient oaks to fall onto Live Oak Park Road, washed out private bridges, an egress to homes and created a difficult time for residents. Those big holes were replaced by a donation of trees from the local Maddock Nursery.

Subsequently 165 new trees were planted on Live Oak Park and Reche roads all the way to Via Zara; 65 of those were planted in Live Oak Park. North County Fire Protection District was there for road safety and a Girl Scout troop made hand painted T-Shirts for volunteers to buy to commemorate the day.

With dreams of furthering the Urban Forestry movement right here in Fallbrook, the Save the Oaks Group became members of the Fallbrook Land Conservancy in 1993. Save the Oaks soon became the Save Our Forest committee of the FLC with their new goal in mind. The mission of the FLC mission is to preserve land in perpetuity for nature preserves. The SOF purpose was "Preserving the rural character and natural beauty of Fallbrook."

Entering the competitive field of grant writing, they were awarded their first grant in 1995 from California ReLeaf to plant 110 trees in downtown Fallbrook This state-wide organization receives funds from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection that come to them as a state wide organization from the National Urban Forestry line item.

That grant's purpose was to break up heat islands and provide energy saving shade while creating pedestrian friendly shopping, thus economic support. These Urban Forestry grants require that the trees be planted on public property, to benefit the public at large such as road easements, schools, etc. An easement is the measurement of the road on county maps less the width of the actual traveled way.

Also at the mercy of county permitting requirements, the exact address and measurements to find the exact site are reviewed for approval by the county. The tree must be one on their allowed list of trees, must consider overhead wires, marked for underground utilities by Dig Alert, be spaced 20" apart, and not conflict with road signage. It is noteworthy that the county does not provide tree maintenance but will remove trees that fall into county roads.

This, the first venture of a community tree planting took hours of preparation. Building a team, training tree captains to lead volunteers, acquiring tools, shovels and the like. How to make it even happen was next. Most importantly, we found Rick Windbigler of Fallbrook Equipment Rentals who loaned us the auger to dig the holes. Windbigler has become the biggest donor of all time, still giving.

Other donors include Ed Butts of Advanced Concrete, Gresham Concrete, Gene Hayden who used his backhoe to dig holes and Ham radio operators who participated to convey needs at far flung sites. These local businesses made it possible.

It turned into a real party, with food from local restaurants, music by Ken Graydon and Jeff Lyon on guitar and fiddle, with Jeff's daughter Alex on the spoons. Two hundred-fifty folks came to plant and party, setting the stage for the future.

Save Our Forest fast found that they must help shepherd these new young trees through their establishment years. Our tree and bench adoption program was begun. Community members stepped up to adopt a tree perhaps in memory of a loved one, or as a supporter of the Treescape Project. That established the Tree Maintenance fund

Much more is to be told and will continue for the reader who wonders how this all began. Other bigger, exciting things grew the project to the nearing 2,845 trees today with grants totaling $245,000 + funding the process.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is now.

Submitted by Save Our Forest.


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