After sparking controversy last summer and dramatically pruning the coral trees in Long Beach’s Bluff Park, the city has announced its intent to remove all of the coral trees in the park’s vicinity.
The announcement comes after a tree in Whittier fell onto a wedding party over the weekend, killing a 61-year-old woman and leaving a 4-year-old girl critically injured.
“We are always saddened to see any of our beloved trees removed, but as these specific trees die and pose a significant safety risk, our priority is to ensure that our parks are safe and the rest of our trees are as healthy as possible,” said Marie Knight, director of Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine (PRM) in a statement.
Two arborists conducted a health and safety risk evaluation regarding the trees, concluding that the five located in Bluff Park are dying and should be removed, based on their categorization of “probable” failure with “severe” consequences, which cannot be mitigated by just pruning the trees.
Another 12 coral trees in the area will be significantly pruned to prolong their lifespan, as recommended by arborists, according to the city.
A total of 22 coral trees exist in the area, ranging in height from 20 to 60 feet, with canopies spreading the same distance. With increased limb failure over the summer, the trees’ brittle, soft-wooded nature can cause danger to unwitting residents, especially during periods of extreme heat or drought. The drought conditions often cause the limbs to split apart or fall, the city stated.
A replacement plan for the trees will be developed as the drought continues.
A city audit published at the end of June found that the trees within the city were found to be in dire need of maintenance and investment, as over one-fourth of the trees in the city are dead or considered in poor condition. The problem was partially attributed to a lack of human resources, due to an expansion of park space and static staffing levels.
Most of the limb failure has been confined to El Dorado Regional, Heartwell, Wardlow and Houghton Parks, according to a city release.
The Whittier park where a tree fell onto a wedding party on Saturday has been closed until an arborist can determine why the tree fell and evaluate other trees in the park.
City News Service contributed to this report.