City to Spare Oak, Relocate Playground

Responding to community protests, the City Council has decided to spare an aging oak tree in Libbey Park.

About 70 people were there Tuesday night when the council voted 3 to 2 to leave the 150-year-old oak unharmed. The city instead will spend $27,000 to move a playground from under the tree’s canopy, reducing the safety hazard posed by the possibility of falling branches.

The tree will become a focal point of an educational program on caring for oaks.

The tree is the healthiest of three aging oaks, determined by arborists to be in danger of falling down. The three trees made news recently when residents voiced fierce opposition to the city’s plan to remove the three towering trees. Two of them have already be chopped down.

Councilman David Bury originally wanted to remove all three trees but this week voted to save the remaining oak, saying a plan for its regular inspection and maintenance convinced him public safety was ensured.


“It was the right thing to do, no question about that,” he said.

Councilwoman Sue Horgan objected to the council’s reconsidering the issue, saying laws prohibit the council from making such a change unless new information has been uncovered.

“There is no new information,” she said. “Reconsideration should not be resorted to as a political bag of tricks when you don’t like the outcome of a vote.”

Councilman Joe DeVito, who voted against sparing the tree, said moving the playground was too costly and wouldn’t remove the safety hazard the tree poses.

As part of the oaks education program requested by the council, the Ojai Land Conservancy plans to ask the city to pay for reprinting a popular brochure on caring for oak trees.