Concerns about local tree mortality addressed

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A letter writer’s concerns about dying trees in the community ultimately yielded some insights into the dangers and practices related to coping with state mandates to decrease water consumption.

Patrick Hannan wrote a letter to the News Review editor, asking about the pine trees on the north side of the Desert Empire Fairgrounds property.

“Well, most of them are dying for lack of water. It’s a sad sight to see these trees die for lack of proper maintenance,” he wrote.

“Now most of them are brown looking and dead. One wonders what the staff of the fairgrounds are doing other than waiting around for their checks!”

In a follow-up email, Hannan expressed his dismay at seeing trees all over town dying for apparent lack of water. “I would think the city should do something.”

With Hannan’s permission, the News Review shared his letter with DEF Executive Director Chip Holloway, whose response indicates that the issue is more complex than may be generally understood.

“Our water bill was more than $18,000 last year, and we do water all trees (yes, even those referred to) for the most part,” Holloway wrote.

However, he noted that there are some trees on the property getting only the water “Mother Nature provides” that are thriving. “Others are so infested with bark beetles that they can’t defend themselves, even though they have been watered regularly.”

Since Holloway took over management of the fairgrounds, he said, he has been forced to remove 30 trees destroyed by bark beetles.

“We did receive a donation from the city of Ridgecrest earlier this year of some foliage we have planted to try and compensate for lost trees, but only time will tell.

“I find it disconcerting that someone is so quick to insult my hard-working staff without any prior knowledge of the incredible improvements we have made out here with very little money and less than three paid staff members in my short time as CEO.”

Holloway also commended the volunteers of Oasis Garden Club for their help and advice in improving the landscape.

“We remain strapped for state funding, and it is the support of great sponsors and our community that has allowed us to have some positive accomplishments.

“Once we understand the impacts of the Groundwater Management Plan, we will consider whether to plant new trees.”

“IWV Water District has been advocating for the importance of maintaining trees in our desert climate since mandatory restrictions were enacted during the drought,” said Don Zdeba, IWVWD general manager.

Recently the district sent out oversized postcards to customers about maintaining trees. IWVWD also offers regular workshops to help instruct the public on water-efficient landscaping. (More information is at www.iwvwd.com/conservation/how-to-help-trees-survive-the-drought).

“There is no doubt trees that are weakened due to lack of proper watering are more susceptible to disease, and we are seeing that occurrng locally,” said Zdeba.

“An unfortunate consequence of people reducing or eliminating altogether irrigating their own turf is that trees no longer receive the water needed to survive and thrive. It saddens me to see the amount of mature trees in our community that we have lost.”

Story First Published: 2019-04-05