City Plaza Elms

City of Chico City Plaza Elm Removal 2003

Around 1865, John Bidwell, Chico's founder, had visions of a civic center in Chico. He designated the City Plaza block to be preserved for the new town. One year later, as development of the plaza progressed, John Bidwell planted the elm trees. 

Historically, the City Plaza was a meeting place, an informal gathering place, a celebration place. In this outdoor "living room," many came to visit with neighbors, picnic with friends and family and gather for special occasions such as parades and Christmas celebrations. It became a formal gathering place for a growing community to organize its events. In the last half of the 20th century and into the 21st, the utilization of the Plaza for large community events has grown rapidly.

Around 1900, soil was brought into the Plaza to help control flooding. Soil covered part of the stumps, causing decay. It was not known it would kill the trees. Who knows, if that had not happened, they may have lasted another 150 years.

Chris Boza, City of Chico Urban Forester, examined each tree before removal. Out of the 21 trees, only three were close to being acceptable. The post -removal inspections and analysis concluded that many were almost completely hollow from decay. One of the causes, he said, happened when the trees were topped. Topping reduces nutrients to the roots and impeded growth and health of the trees. The root systems were in the upper two feet of soil and they had been rotting for about 100 years.

For the most part, Chico residents seemed to understand why the trees had to be removed. Public safety was a big concern, due to the elm that toppled during a storm in May prior to the removals. The fallen tree had taken down a neighboring tree, as well as causing an injury to a visitor in the Plaza. A second elm uprooted at the same time and was also removed. These fallen trees revealed the decay and deterioration the city staff suspected and confirmed they had deteriorated further than originally thought.  City officials made the decision to remove all the elms.
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