A TERRIBLE LOSS: Nearly 200 oak trees were destroyed in Arcadia. (Photo: miheco/Flickr)
The majestic beauty of California oak trees and sycamores is a sight I'm lucky to enjoy daily, living in a canyon in the hills of Hollywood. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by these trees, and the thought of losing any of them is heartbreaking. So when I heard about the destruction of an 11-acre wooded area in Arcadia, populated with nearly 250 old-growth oaks and sycamores, the sadness hit me in the pit of my stomach.
I've witnessed first-hand the rich variety of bird species and other wildlife that flourish in wooded areas, even in the midst of residential development. Our back yard is a popular spot for an almost countless number of creatures: a multitude of hummingbird species, woodpeckers, American robins, owls, squirrels, raccoons, coyotes — even a bobcat occasionally makes an appearance. In years past, during the summer months, a herd of deer would gather on the hillside behind the house where I now live, where they would peacefully munch on grass beneath the shade of an oak tree. In the spring, I've watched hummingbirds and mourning doves make nests, lay eggs and nurture their young, right outside my window.
These experiences allow me to maintain a connection to seasonal rhythms and the life cycles of wild animals. Nature is not concerned with the hustle and bustle of city life, and it is soothing to be surrounded by the unhurried but consistent and purposeful — and sometimes playful — activities of these cohabiting creatures.
So what will happen to the animals that called the Arcadia old-growth grove home? And what was the purpose of the destruction? This seemingly senseless act is part of a plan the L.A. County Department of Public Works has devised to relocate sediment and debris from the nearby Santa Anita Dam. About 500,000 cubic yards of sludge will be dredged from the dam and transported to the now-barren landscape that was a lush ecosystem enjoyed by local residents. DPW Assistant Director Mark Pestrella, in an attempt to reassure the public, told KPCC's Patt Morrison that the DPW is creating alternative woodland habitats for the wildlife impacted by the demolition, and that new trees are being planted nearby, at a three-to-one ratio, in an attempt to offset the loss of these oaks and sycamores in Arcadia.
Eyewitness descriptions of the destruction are devastating. Doris Stone, an Arcadia resident for over three decades, and mother of protester and ecosystem advocate Camron Stone, told the L.A. Times, "I'm in tears, it's a little bit of heaven in there." Another organizer of tree-sitting protests at the site, John Quigley, spoke to reporters on the morning of the unfortunate event, saying, "They have started tearing down the oaks and sycamores with bulldozers. There is a crash and crack of trees on all sides."
The Arcadia oak grove is gone, but it is not forgotten. It is preserved in the hearts and minds of all who enjoyed its beauty. The video below documents what was lost to the community, and to the wildlife that called the grove home.
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