An unknown demonstrator set up a public awareness spectacle in downtown San Luis Obispo to draw attention to the ficus and carrotwood trees cut down this fall. Spray- painted on the seven stumps felled by the city in recent weeks is the image of a monkey in a shopping cart and a procession of addresses directing the tour.
The demonstration questioned the apparent retail influence on city tree policy particularly the role played by the Downtown Association as well as the direction of planning in SLO as a whole.
"People remember a certain tree and, when it's gone, they notice," city councilperson Christine Mulholland commented.
City arborist Ron Combs stated that San Luis Obispo's arboreal plan employs a laddered approach to replacing dying trees, while protecting the canopy effect downtown and promoting species diversity. He pointed to an incident several years ago in which a sick tree damaged several cars in the 700 block of Higuera.
Also, certain species, like carrotwood, struggle in an urban environment.
"A lot of these trees are reaching a state of maturity," Combs said. "We generally lose a tree or two downtown each year."
New Times polled shop owners, retailers, and restaurateurs along the route to learn more about the stump situation. Some business owners complained that the fast-growing ficus destroyed the surrounding sidewalk. Others questioned the veracity of the city informing them that the trees were "diseased" or "dying."
According to Combs, the accuracy of that statement boils down to semantics.
"All mature trees have some form of something," he said. "There are diseases like pitch canker where the tree goes down [pretty quick] none of the trees had anything like that."
The stump walk begins at 1119 Garden St. in front of Downtown Brew. Interested in voicing concerns regarding the future of San Luis Obispo's urban forest? The Tree Committee meets at the city public works building on Prado Road on the fourth Monday of every month.