Tree upkeep tough task for limited staff 

More than two years after a tree that already had been reported as dangerous fell on a woman in Stern Grove, the Recreation and Park Department has adopted a proactive strategy to address distressed trees.

The problem of The City’s aging trees was thrust into the spotlight in 2008 after a falling redwood branch killed a 50-year-old woman who was walking her dogs in Stern Grove. It had been identified in a 2003 survey as one of 603 hazardous trees in the park, yet it was never pruned.

When the accident occurred, Rec and Park already had begun looking at ways it could improve its tree-maintenance strategy, and the department was eyeing ways to spend $4 million in bond money on that task. That money is just now beginning to be spent. Contractors have been hired to prune and remove trees in certain parks and reforest other areas, according to a Rec and Park spokesman.

However, the staff of arborists is so small it would take them more than 50 years to inspect and respond to every tree in San Francisco’s parks.

As it stands, Rec and Park’s 13 tree-care staff members decide which trees to prune or remove simply based on suggestions or complaints by gardeners and residents, according to the report, written by city contractor HortScience. This reactionary strategy appeases the immediate concerns of the public, but leaves thousands of trees uninspected and untreated as they age.

The report recommends shifting to a 50 percent response, 50 percent programmed-management strategy.

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Katie Worth

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