Every five years, city arborists evaluate every one of the more than 40,000 trees in the city of Santa Maria, caring for the city's urban forest at an annual cost of $160,000.
Tree experts determine the health of each specimen and flag any safety concerns, then create a plan for their future, which may include trimming, medicating or cutting down a tree completely.
Trees are important to city leaders for many reasons, including the fact that they provide shade on hot days; help clean the air; absorb stormwater runoff; give shelter to local wildlife; and provide a break from the high winds that often blow through the area.
“There is no such thing as a bad tree, just a bad location for a tree. There is a right tree for the right place,” said Roy Teniente, Santa Maria's urban forest supervisor. “My job is to know what we have out there and not continue any problems.”
Recently, arborists determined that a group of old, tall eucalyptus trees in the area of McCoy Lane west of Betteravia Road had to be removed because they posed a safety hazard to residents.
Teniente determined that the trees posed a potential hazard to area homes they towered over and ordered to have them removed.
“We’ve had some of those trees fall in the past. It is not common, but we always err on the side of caution,” said Teniente, adding that last winter, winds and rains contributed to large tree limbs crashing down on vehicles and property across the city.
The work to remove the trees on West McCoy Lane wrapped up Wednesday with crews grinding out tree stumps, but it isn’t the end of work with trees in the area.
Teniente said crews soon will return and replace the trees that were taken down and renovate other landscaping in the area.
“That whole area needed a face-lift,” Teniente said. “We are going to replace them with smaller trees (and) more trees.”
Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department Director Alex Posada, whose department oversees the city’s tree program, called the city’s forest a resource.
“We have an urban forest and it is an actual managed resource,” Posada said.
According to historians, when the first settlers came to the Santa Maria Valley, they described it as a treeless wasteland, Posada said.
“That has really changed in the last 100 and something years,” said Posada, whose department is responsible for every tree in the city on both public and private property.