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Outrage Following Botched Tree Cut

Officials are working on new procedures after dozens of prized valley oaks were mistakenly chopped down in Bidwell Park last week. 


Erik Gustafson, City of Chico Public Works Director for Operations and Maintenance, described a “series of miscommunications” involving an inmate tree crew contracted to remove a stand of damaged Catalpa trees. 




“Unfortunately, there were, you know, 27 oak trees, many of them small in nature that were impacted by the removal of the downed debris, and we never want to see that happen.” Gustafson said. 


But Robin McCollum, an arborist and retired county tree crew supervisor said those trees weren’t impacted, they were cut down, and the total was 35. McCollum said most of the Valley Oaks ranged from six to thirty inches in diameter. He said the errant work of a few hours will take half a century to heal. 


The incident occurred last week near the Chico Creek Nature Center. McCollum said people meant to supervise work were called away. He said rather than marking trees for removal officials had instead marked the trees meant to be retained.  


McCollum, said he found an owl’s nest that had fallen and accused crews of cutting down or severely pruning elderberry trees, locally a protected habitat of the endangered Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle. 


Gustavson said officials are re-working protocols to avoid a recurrence, and has received feedback from neighbors unhappy about the incident.  


“We’re going to have an aggressive re-planting function take place and a proper mitigation function take place.” Gustavson said. 


An official report on the incident was scheduled for delivery yesterday to the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission.