This summer, the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) announced their plans to thin out trees in Redwood Regional Park, along the East Ridge Trail.
They began their work briefly in July, and cut down trees near the northern entrance. Then the Park District’s efforts were put on hold, as protests were waged by citizen groups. What impressed me was the maturity of the protest – whether you agree with it or not.
Despite years of environmental study, there were key questions raised about the sheer quantity of trees to be culled for fire safety or other reasons. At the time, I only thought about the inconvenience of one of the most popular biking and hiking trails being closed on weekdays.
Apparently many healthy trees were slated for removal, within a 150 foot distance from the trail. The Hills Conservation Network claimed this was overkill because “fire-safe environments and preservation of natural landscapes are not mutually exclusive.” They produced this video showing the East Ridge Trail and raising questions along the way.
According to Assistant Fire Chief John Swanson, who works for the Park District, “We are not taking any more trees than are necessary to accomplishing those [fire safety] objectives.” Montclair’s Rose Nied thought that some trees should be saved from the chopping block, and partially succeeded by walking the trail with Swanson.
The Park District also hosted open meetings, and received comments from hundreds of people afterwards. Their work was placed on hold while additional assessments were made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The tree removals are scheduled to re-start soon, unless some additional litigation emerges.
Still this was the right way to protest. There’s no need to camp out in the forest for two years, like the folks who were finally removed from the remaining Berkeley campus tree this week.