28 Valley oaks removed from Bidwell Park Fire suppression may have gone awry

photo story by Karen Laslo

Last week, if you were anywhere near the Chico Creek Nature Center in Bidwell Park, you probably heard the whine and scream of chainsaws and the roar of a big backhoe.

photo by Karen Laslo
Tree removal created a muddy mess last week.

A CDF prison crew was hard at work cutting down several non-native and invasive Catalpa trees to reduce the risk of fire in the coming months.

But, unfortunately, it appears that 28 healthy, native, valley oak trees were also mistakenly cut down, according to local tree advocates. And because the ground was sopping wet from several recent storms, the heavy equipment made deep ruts in the soil. It’s still not clear who authorized the project and who was in charge of overseeing it.

photo by Karen Laslo
A city official numbered the stumps of valley oaks that were cut down.

photo by Karen Laslo
Some young, healthy valley oaks were among those removed.

Karen Laslo is a freelance photographer and contributor to ChicoSol.

7 thoughts on “28 Valley oaks removed from Bidwell Park Fire suppression may have gone awry

  1. Complete and utter stupidity. Was NO ONE supervising?! The carnage at the site is shocking and disgusting. When you think of what this park and its forest means to this community (and especially those of us who live near it and enjoy it daily), it’s a tragedy.

  2. Gustafson’s explanation is not sufficient – from ChicoSol’s reporting “Chico’s Public Works Director Erik Gustafson has sent ChicoSol a statement that reads, in part, that the city has ‘aleady put measures in place to prevent this type of scenario from happening in the future.'” How was this allowed to happen in the first place?
    Years ago a city crew was cutting trees just on the city side of Riparia’s north border, just whacking away, ostensibly “to protect from possible flooding of Crouch Ditch”. When I demanded to know who was in charge, I was given Gustafson’s name, and when i hysterically screamed to him that there was NO danger of flooding, the cutting stopped immediately, but not before we had to put in a couple thousand dollars worth of fence to restore our privacy which had been provided by the trees. Is Gustafson a tree hater, or stoned, or just plain incompetent?

  3. In regards to the 28 oaks removed from Bidwell Park near the nature center for a 200 foot defensive space per Cal Fire law. First of all it’s no longer a park,it’s a jungle, the amount of fire fuel is staggering, because of environmentalists views and not allowing proper management and maintenance to take place at Bidwell Park. It has become severely overgrown, if one of our local homeless people were to start a fire in just the right conditions, it would be total and utter devastation to the park and its surrounding parts. We really should think and reflect on the catastrophic destruction that has left our neighbors in Paradise with 89 souls perished and countless families without a home, regardless of how the camp fire started, the threat remains the same. I think the removal or thinning of a few trees and some brush,undergrowth, down or dead, is well worth not only the park itself but the homes and families surrounding it.

    1. This echo chamber point about environmentalists being responsible for fire danger has to be called out. No environmentalists I know of–and I know plenty–are against thinning of the undergrowth in Bidwell Park or anywhere else, including the national forests. JM, you are creating a straw man, easily knocked down but not real–a caricature of the people you label “environmentalists.” The real issue in this case is that these trees were cut down BY MISTAKE by an incompetent or poorly trained crew. So this is not about “the removal or thinning down of a few trees”–that project has the support of most environmentalists and park-lovers. This is about cutting healthy trees that provide oxygen, shade, and a cooling environment for the park and are home to many living beings. It should not have happened. Thinning is fine. Cutting mature trees that were not a fire hazard is a terrible mistake. We need to hold Gustafson accountable and ensure this does not happen again. Meanwhile, 600,000 trees will be cut down in Paradise and across the area that burned–some necessary, some perhaps not–and this will contribute even more to the change of climate in our area. We need every tree we can save.

  4. i believe Bidwell Park is a mess and fire hazard to the entire city if Chico. It is allowed to be this way because the city council, planners and bureaucrats would rather pass the buck rather than doing something substantial to make this park look like a park rather than an overgrown jungle with no care.

    1. What you refer to as “jungle” is natural habitat. Worry instead that many properties/dwellings around Bidwell have done nothing to create “defensible space.”

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