After decades of deteriorating structural integrity, Quercus lobata of Felton finally succumbed to a need to prioritize public safety, and passed away at home in Felton Fair on June 20, 2017. His age is unknown, but may have been about three centuries. He was born in Felton before Felton was, and lived his entire life here. In the idyllic alluvial meadow between Zayante Creek and the San Lorenzo River, he was a simple forest tree for most of his career, and only became a distinguished shade tree when Graham Hill Road was built. Instead of retiring later in life, he became the most prominent tree in the parking lot when Felton Fair was constructed. In his spare time, he enjoyed feeding neighborhood squirrels. A tree of few words, or really none at all, Quercus lobata never complained about anything, even when cars crashed into his bulky trunk, and stripped away large portions of bark where decayed cavities later developed. His remains will be scattered as mulch,and used to warm homes throughout the region. Ashes will be scattered as stoves and fireplaces are cleaned. Rings will be counted privately. Quercus lobata is survived by an unknown number of children, countless squirrels, and countless admirers of various specie throughout Felton.
The obituary above was serious business when it was written. What it does not mention is that the deceased did not fall down or die completely of natural causes. It was cut down after dropping a very large limb onto a roadway, demonstrating how dangerous it could be. It would have gotten more dangerous if it aged and deteriorated more. No one wanted it to be cut down. It was just too necessary.
This is the part of the job of arborists that non-arborists do not seem to understand. We arborists love our work, and we love trees. However, that does not mean that we object to the removal of each and every tree. The people who live with trees are more important. Any tree that blatantly endangers people or property must be removed or made safe.
Unfortunately, valley oaks deteriorate and fall apart for many decades before they finally die. This particular tree might have survived for quite a while if it had not been cut down. It also would have continued to drop limbs.
Distinguished old trees are always the most difficult to condemn. No one is old enough to remember when they were not here. They witnessed more changes to their little part of the world than anyone. Without going anywhere, some of them here in California visited three different countries; Spain, Mexico and the United States of America.
In the end though, death is perfectly natural. The tree had spent centuries doing what it was put here to do. It was time for it to go. Behind the stump in the picture, one of its babies is already becoming a nice young tree. Another one is just to the east, just beyond the left edge of the picture. They might shade the road and driveway for a few more centuries. What history will they see during that time?