Burbank ponders pricy replacement of Camphor trees at Memorial Field

As a $12.2 million makeover of Memorial Field at John Burroughs High School nears completion, city leaders and school board members continue debating the possibility of replacing six camphor trees on one end of the field – a move that would cost the district about $21,000.

Earlier this month, Burbank Unified School District officials warned that berries from the trees would stain the stadium’s artificial-turf surface and the track. Though the stains would not harm the structure, the discoloration would not be covered by any warranty, and district officials said there is little money to spend on extra maintenance.

“There’s a reduction in staffing,” Burbank Unified Supt. Stan Carrizosa said, speaking at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “We’re not staffed to the level we’d like, and for us, the stadium is special.”

The stadium usually is cleaned on a weekly basis, with additional cleaning following special events, Carrizosa noted in his presentation.

“I take some responsibility for not researching the dropping period,” Carrizosa said. “That’s something we didn’t have the experience to think through. But I don’t own that on my own. That’s all of us, we share in that responsibility.”

Deputy Parks Director Jan Bartolo said in an email this week that the trees drop their berries annually and that December and January is the period of heaviest droppage.

Bartolo said it wouldn’t harm the trees if they were pruned before they are scheduled to drop berries.

“However, since they’ve just been recently pruned [in July], a sufficient amount of time would have to transpire before they’re pruned again,” Bartolo said. ”These are mature, established trees that we wouldn’t want to place in an accelerated decline.”

Councilman Dave Golonski said he understood the additional maintenance cost and agreed about wanting to keep the area clean. But he said he wasn’t convinced the staining and maintenance outweighed benefits the roughly 50-year-old trees provide.

“I’m not going to support removing the trees tonight,” Golonski said.

He urged everyone to “take a step back, take a deep breath.”

“I don’t feel we’re under the gun, as we were led to believe originally,” Golonski said.

The majority of the City Council – Mayor Jess Talamantes as well as Councilmen David Gordon and Gary Bric – preferred to replace the six trees.

But the council agreed to postpone the matter for two weeks.

School district officials have said they would pay to plant 10 new trees for every tree that was removed.

Carrizosa proposed replacing the camphor trees with others that are as mature as possible.

Three 36-inch trees might be the largest that could be planted because of drainage in certain areas, Bartolo said at the meeting. It was possible the three remaining trees could be 48 inches tall.

The estimated cost for three 36-inch trees is $1,650 and $3,600 for three 48-inch trees, or $5,250, Bartolo said in an email this week. That cost would be covered by BUSD.

Planting 54 15-gallon trees, for a total of 60 trees, per BUSD’s promise to plant 10 trees for every one that is removed, is estimated to cost $6,750.

Removing the six trees is estimated at $9,240, including labor and equipment, a staff report states, bringing the total cost to $21,240.

-- Maria  Hsin, Times Community News

Twitter: @mariahsin

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