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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 1st, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 18

Santa Maria investigates tree deaths related to apparent poisoning

By Malea Martin

On June 22, the city of Santa Maria’s park and urban forest supervisor discovered two trees on West Main Street that appeared to have suspiciously died, prompting the city to investigate further. The city arborist discovered that the trees had multiple drill holes near the base, indicating that they were likely injected with chemicals. A few days later, a third tree on West Taft Street was discovered with the same apparent injections.


SEEKING ANSWERS
Santa Maria is asking the public for help after three trees died from what appears to be chemical poisoning. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Recreation and Parks Department at (805) 925-0951, Ext. 2260.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF SANTA MARIA

Brett Fulgoni, assistant director of Recreation and Parks, told the Sun that these types of procedures are not uncommon; however, they should only be conducted by the city.

“Usually we’ll inject trees to try and help them. But for a tree to die that quickly is very suspicious, especially to see injection locations,” Fulgoni said. “People shouldn’t be tampering with trees at all. If they were trying to help it, they did it wrong. That’s why the city needs to be responsible for it.”

The city plans to work with a tree pathologist in the near future to uncover how the trees were killed and to confirm whether chemicals were involved. While nothing is certain yet, City Arborist Roy Teniente has his theories. 

“I would have to believe that it was intentional to get rid of the trees,” he said. “There’s different reasons why people want to get rid of trees. One of the main reasons is the leaf litter that they produce. They might not like the tree for whatever reason. They don’t like the species; they don’t like the location.”

Teniente said that it will be difficult for the city to find a culprit, as the alleged method used to kill the trees takes a couple of weeks to kick in. By the time the tree dies, it’s hard to pinpoint a suspect.  

“Code Compliance is going to try to talk to some people, talk to the adjacent property owners, to see if they’ve seen something or if they have any information,” he said. “But you’d be hard-pressed to find any guilty party.”

Fulgoni said there are proper avenues people can go through to get a tree removed if it’s bothering them.

“Sometimes people will call and try to get trees removed through the correct channels, but every once in a while somebody will take it upon themselves to try to remove the tree,” he said. 

Fulgoni said that, under the city’s tree ordinance, a person charged with killing the trees would be required as punishment to pay for the damages and the costs associated with planting a new tree. The estimated damages alone amount to $7,900. 

“If people do have issues with their trees, before taking it upon yourself, just contact the city first to determine whether they’re city-maintained trees or not,” Teniente said. “If they are, then we can address it going through the proper channels.”










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