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Massive valley oak collapses in Valencia shopping center

Residents pause to lament destruction

Posted: April 30, 2013 6:22 p.m.
Updated: April 30, 2013 6:22 p.m.

The huge, 150-year oak tree that graced the Bridgeport Marketplace parking lot has broken apart, prompting city tree experts and property owners to contemplate its future, they said.

Some time between sundown Monday and dawn Tuesday, three “scaffolding limbs” of the sprawling valley oak split collapsed, sending one of its limbs crashing onto the protective metal fence around it. Scaffolding limbs are major branches that extend from the trunk of a tree; this one had three, and all three broke overnight.

But the tree does not appear to be dead, said Robert Sartain, an oak tree specialist with the city of Santa Clarita.

“There’s one sprig left on the trunk of the tree,” he said Tuesday, noting the tree is at least 150 years old. “But valley oaks don’t always regenerate.”

The future of the tree at the corner of McBean Parkway and Newhall Ranch Road now rests with property owners CA Intertex based in Valencia.

The giant tree touched the lives of many who frequented the shopping center. Several stopped to stare at the tangle of broken branches; at least one tied fresh flowers to the fence around it.

“We were very fond of the tree, as well,” Intertex Development Manager Darcey Oldhafer said Tuesday. “We don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said.

“We weren’t counting on this. We hadn’t made any plans.”

Oldhafer said she met with Sartain and two other city officials about the tree Tuesday.

“The city would encourage them to keep that site as it is,” said Kevin Tonoian, the city’s administrative services manager.

“If they want to replant around it, that’s something we would encourage them to do.”

Intertex plans to remove the tree’s “debris” this week, Oldhafer said, referring to the downed limbs.

The tree came close to being ripped out eight years ago when the shopping complex went in, Oldhafer said.

According to an assessment done on the tree in 2005, the old oak was found to be in poor health with structural defects, Oldhafer said, reading from the report.

Details of the assessment completed for the oak tree permit applied for by developers described the tree as having “a sizeable cavity and area of decay on its south side.”

The report recommended it be removed.

Instead, developers built a perimeter fence around the tree, in large part to prevent branches falling on people.

The “cavity” cited in the assessment is typical for old valley oaks, said Sartain, and likely a factor in its having fallen apart.

“It’s a pretty common occurrence for these oaks as they age,” he said. “It’s typical to get a hollow or cavity in the center of it.”
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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