For everything Rossmoor offers its nearly 10,000 residents, among the community’s most unique amenity is a full-time arborist that literally manages the district’s more than 5,000 trees.
Mary Kingman, Rossmoor’s arborist, gave the district its required annual tree report this past week at the board’s Jan. 11 meeting.
She gave the Board of Directors an overview of the heath of trees throughout the district, reported specific metrics of limb failures and tree replacements and even conducted a very complex discussion with the board on the state of Rossmoor’s urban forest.
“In 2021, the district had eight trees planted,” said Kingman. “These trees replaced those removed for various reasons,” she said, including disease, age-related decay, high risk hazard rating, or root related failure.
She said three residents were awarded permits to remove trees “to accommodate driveway approach relocation.”
During the year, said Kingman, there were also three complete “tree failures” caused by high winds and cold weather.
There were 33 reported “limb failures,” said Kingman, with limbs being branches larger than 2 inches in diameter. She said 90 percent of the failures were caused by high winds and rain.
Kingman said the district lost a tree that fell in Rossmoor Park, the second tree to fall within the same area of the park. An examination of the tree led officials to believe root decay was the cause of the failure.
“It was determined [by a local lab] that soil fertility and suitably at the location likely caused the roots to fail,”
As a result, Kingman said she is working together with the district’s Park Superintendent “to correct soil and irrigation conditions at the park.”
Another tree failure, “which happened in calm weather in the middle of night,” struck a parked vehicle, she said, causing the vehicle to be a total loss.
Fortunately, she said, the district’s insurance carrier paid the claim for a replacement for the vehicle’s owner.
Residents within Rossmoor made 445 tree service requests in 2021, said Kingman. Most of those requests, she said, were for tree planting and trimming. Moreover, the district arborist said approximately 2,500 trees were pruned throughout the year.
Actually, said Kingman, “people pose one of the biggest threats to the trees,” saying threats can include unauthorized pruning, tree removal, lack of irrigation, putting artificial turf around trees, lawn mower and Weed-Wacker damage to the trunk, and those are just some of the issues we’re facing “trying to protect the district’s trees.”
“It’s a really important piece of who we are as a community,” said RCSD Board President Jeffrey Rips, who told Kingman “We appreciate your efforts.”
She said forty new trees will be planted in February, which will complete the current planting season.
Asked by Director Mark Nitikman about resident satisfaction with the requests for service, Kingman said she responds to all requests. Regarding their satisfaction, she said, it depends on the request.
“If someone is asking for a tree to be removed and I am not able to remove that tree under the current policy, they are usually not very pleased,” replied Kingman.
However, she said it is “refreshing” to see that most of the service requests are for tree planting, not removal.
Director Tony DeMarco commended the report and asked General Manager Joe Mendoza to consider putting a tab in the Director’s reports to keep closer tabs on the ongoing tree report.
Rips agreed that having that information available for comparison stats could be helpful to the board.
Director Nathan Searles asked about the incidences of turf encroachment or homeowners not watering trees and how a trend to artificial turf may be impacting Rossmoor’s urban forest.
“First of all,” said Kingman, “I’m not a fan of artificial turf. I don’t think its good for the environment. It’s really popular but not good for trees.”
Kingman said artificial turf kills anything below the surface, it changes soil conditions “for the worse.” Therefore, any time she sees artificial turf covering a tree trunk, the arborist said she “sends the resident a letter” asking them to correct the situation, moving the artificial turf at least three feet away from the trunk.
Regarding the drought, “that’s a little bit tough to determine,” she said, because of so many potential factors. “It’s hard to determine what trees died from drought,” said Kingman.
Once trees survive an extended drought, she said they can more easily fall prey to other threats. Kingman said a stressful drought can make trees “more susceptible” to disease and pest infestation.
While the planting season is already over for the year, Kingman said they are dedicated to maintaining the health of Rossmoor’s urban forest for the coming year.