El Granada Advocates is a community group that is working earnestly together to stop what members say is the clear-cutting of El Granada’s median eucalyptus trees.
“The ultimate goal is to focus fire mitigation in the appropriate area and not on our beloved mid-trees,” explained advocacy group member Melinda MacNaughton.
Last April, plans to remove eucalyptus from medians as a wildfire mitigation effort began to take shape. MacNaughton responded by forming a restoration committee. The committee hoped to develop the cleared areas and restore the embankments to their original and historic beauty. But plans to do so have been thwarted by a lack of funding and legal ramifications for anyone developing the midfield properties.
“We found out that it will be very difficult in the near future to make repairs because of county liability contract restrictions and also because no one would fund it,” she said. “The community should pay out of pocket.”
Therefore, a new direction was needed, and this time the advocacy group focused on stopping clearcutting altogether.
“I sat down with a group of people who were thinking about this issue and we realized the tree centerlines weren’t in the high fire danger zone,” MacNaughton said. “We looked at a map of Cal Fire and we said, wow, look at this. The whole red zone is behind the city perimeter and there are houses up there — that’s where the serious and high fire risk is, in the red zones. And we thought…why are they focusing on the medians?
The advocacy group questioned why the clearcut focused on medians rather than the red zone and perimeter, and fire officials responded that it would add another preventative measure in the event of a forest fire. Firefighters and county officials worked together on a plan to remove eucalyptus from the medians in hopes of stopping the progress of a fire from moving from Quarry Park into the El Granada neighborhood.
According to the San Mateo County Department of Public Works, the project removed 80 trees in February in the central medians of Cabrillo Avenue, the Alameda between Santiago and Cabrillo Avenue, and the Alameda between Isabella and Cabrillo Avenue. Cabrillo. Additionally, 139 trees were pruned and all dead wood was removed from all trees in the identified areas.
“When you compare eucalyptus to native vegetation, it’s day and night,” said division chief Richard Sampson. “Eucalyptus is fast growing, constantly shedding leaves, branches and bark, which is an important source of fuel if it catches fire.”
Sampson said since wildfires have gotten significantly worse in California over the past few years, he’s seen people at the El Granada rally in support of more fuel mitigation.
But members of El Granada Advocates say they began to wonder if there might be ulterior motives at play. “Could it be an ocean view for some people, bent on this hysteria fire?” MacNaughton asked.
“There are a lot of arguments coming up and tension within the city over this. There are citizens who want to cut trees and citizens who don’t want to cut trees,” MacNaughton said.
Regardless of the motives, El Granada advocates believe there are alternatives to cutting down trees that are worth exploring.
“There are other solutions, such as creating a defensible space around your house, protecting the city with firebreak perimeters, using nature-based solutions in the forest, such as burns directed and even some newer nature-based solutions such as silvograzing, which is bringing animals back onto the land and grazing them to reduce fuel scale,” MacNaughton said.
El Granada Advocates is currently circulating a petition asking for alternatives to clearcutting.
“There are a lot of people helping out with different jobs and tasks, and the signers are part of that movement as well,” she said. “A lot of them have contributed, and we’re starting to collect more and more signatures. We are accepting signatures from all Midcoasts because they are all affected by this wildfire issue as well. They are all connected to us.
“We have to be careful what we’re talking about when we say we have to clearcut tree centerlines,” she said. “We have to find a more balanced solution, because for us it’s an overreaction.”
Writer August Howell contributed to this story.