On April 8, a large Jeffrey Pine Tree was cut down from its location in Mammoth near the Starwood development site on the edge of its lot line, which borders a log fence next to the intersection of Minaret Road and Ridge Way.
At its base, this tree was about 5 feet in diameter. The tree was also about 400 years old; it stood in that location before the first permanent British settlement on American soil at Jamestown.
The tree’s removal caused upset and anxiety from numerous residents of Mammoth, who reached out to The Sheet expressing concern.
According to reports, the Town of Mammoth Lakes agreed with an arborist, hired by a potential homeowner, that the tree should be cut down.
The arborist involved mentioned that the tree was struck by lightning in the past, which was echoed by the Town and another arborist as one of the justifications for cutting it down. However, the arborist also admitted in his report that the lighting strike did not significantly affect the strength of the tree’s trunk.
Despite whether or not lightning actually weakened the tree, it was able to remain standing tall for hundreds of years.
In another case, the arborist mentioned that there was “decay in the trunk”. However, the arborist’s report then went on to mention that there was no decay found in the tree, based on analyzing core samples taken from it.
A second arborist asserted that the tree was damaged by lightning and had decay and should be removed. However, his recommendation was based on hearsay, with no independent analysis performed of his own.
The Jeffrey Pine was 31 feet from where a new structure will be built.
“I am certainly not a tree hugger, and don’t have any problem with the concept of cutting down trees to build a house, but the removal of this magnificent healthy tree for no reason other than to improve an already spectacular view wouldn’t seem to fit within what I understand our tree policy to be,” wrote one resident to the Town of Mammoth Lakes.
“This tree withstood centuries of horrendous windstorms and snowstorms. Instead, a chain saw with at least a 36-inch blade was used to cut it down and end its life. Then heavy machinery was used to move it around like a bunch of toothpicks and haul it away,” wrote another disheartened resident to The Sheet.
The Sheet reached out to Project Manager Josh Plum, who had the survey and assessment done for the tree. He has not returned our calls.
The Sheet was able to get in contact with Tom Smith, president of the Starwood Association and the architectural committee in charge of the project.
“I can just tell you that it was in a wind channel. The tree had been struck by lightning a number of times, and when the sidewalks were put in, the roots on the windward side of that tree had been compromised. In short, they felt that it was a danger of falling on a new house that was going to be constructed on that site,” said Smith.
The Sheet then reached out to the Town’s Community Development Director Sandra Moberly, who incidentally was on vacation and unable to to be reached this week.
A letter on this topic from John Stavlo appears on page four.