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Lodi’s Abby Racco fights to save palm trees

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Posted: Saturday, July 7, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:46 am, Sat Jul 7, 2012.

When Abby Racco saw white Xs painted on seven date palms and one small fan palm along Hutchins Street, she immediately felt compelled to find homes for the doomed trees.

For the last eight years, Racco has regularly walked past the 25- to 30-foot tall palms on her way to the store. "I live right down the street, and it's a shame to see them cut down," she said. "It would just break my heart to see those go into a wood chipping machine."

So she walked over to City Hall and asked how she could help. She posted an ad on Craigslist offering the trees, and has already received several responses.

"It's one of those things where I said, 'Somebody ought to do something,' and I guess I'm somebody," she said.

The city-owned trees are scheduled for removal as part of a plan to widen Hutchins Street from Lodi Avenue to Pine Street.

The project is estimated to cost $1 million, and it will include new asphalt concrete pavement, new Americans with Disability Act-compliant sidewalks and pedestrian safety features.

In March, the Lodi City Council approved the project, but agreed to reduce the sidewalks from 7 1/2 feet to 5 feet after neighbors complained about losing part of their front yards.

Racco, who works part-time as an environmental consultant, said she had not heard about the palm trees being removed until she saw the X's on the trees. She sent a letter to the city and then spoke with Public Works Director Wally Sandelin, offering to list the trees on Craigslist.

He agreed, and she posted an ad for the trees, which she estimates are at least 80 years old, on the Stockton and San Francisco Craigslist sites.

"My understanding is that the trees could be removed and transplanted," Racco wrote. "They would need to be dug up by a professional tree service and placed on a flatbed for transport."

A company in San Diego that specializes in removing palm trees has expressed interest, as well as a woman who would take one if someone can move it.

Sandelin said the city had been offering the trees for free, and had one person who considered taking the trees a few weeks ago but then thought it was too far to transport them.

Anyone interested in taking a tree will need a flat-bed truck and a machine to dig out the root ball. While the trees are free, Sandelin said there could be problems with utilities underneath, so a contractor would need to discuss the risks with the city and AM Stephens, the contractor doing the Hutchins Street widening project.

Palm trees are easily transplanted because their root ball is so compact. Someone could hire a local contractor to dig them out to put in their yard, Sandelin said. The city plans to take them out the week of July 16.

Date palms are often used in shopping centers, and can range in value from $2,000 to $8,000, said Edward Hughes, the owner of Stockton Tree Surgery Company.

The costs to remove a tree vary, Hughes said. He estimates the Lodi ones would cost about $1,000 each.

"It depends on how big they are and what's around them. There's a lot of factors," he said.

Sandelin said he appreciates that Racco is helping the city try to find homes for the trees.

"It's a valiant effort. Abby went out and saw the X's marked on trees and found out that we were going to take them out. It's nice that someone took an interest in them," he said. Racco said this is the first time she has worked with the city, and felt driven by her love of the palms.

"They are just beautiful trees. It seems like a shame that they are one of the kinds you can dig up, and they do not have homes," she said.

Anyone interested in helping to transplant a palm tree can contact Racco at abbyracco@yahoo.com or the city of Lodi Public Works department at 209-333-6706.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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1 comment:

  • roy bitz posted at 4:59 pm on Sat, Jul 7, 2012.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    It would be nice if these trees could be relocated to Lodi Lake or maybe Roget park.
    As for widening a couple blocks of this street at a cost of one million dollars---is this really going to accomplish anything more than making a few more parking places for Hutchins Square and maybe make room for a bike lane?



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