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Portola Valley: Time running out for ancient oak

It continues to shade the home team dugout at Portola Valley's Ford Field baseball diamond, that solitary old oak with its still-vibrant green canopy, its massive hollowed-out trunk, and its one or two remaining major limbs, but for how much longer?

Little League home teams have not had the benefit of that shade since April 2008. A Town Council majority voted at the time to close the dugout but save the tree -- after a major pruning and the addition of a metal support brace -- in response to community pressure and despite negative reports from six arborists, one of whom reconsidered after the remediation. But as it is said, all things must pass.

A recent report by Portola Valley arborist McLenahan Consulting cites the high potential for "limb failure" and recommends removal, according to an email from Parks & Recreation Committee Chair Jon Myers in response to an Almanac inquiry about developments concerning the tree.

Also in Mr. Myers's email: a recent statement by the town's insurer, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) recommending the tree's removal to "abate (the) hazard as soon as possible," and a note that the board of the Alpine West Menlo Little League, the field's only organized user, is concerned about player safety.

The tree's friends "focus on the beauty of the tree, its historic presence at Ford Field, and the Town's commitment to maintain an open and natural environment," Mr. Myers wrote.

Majorities in the Parks & Recreation and the Conservation committees "are saddened at the possibility of losing this historic tree," but agree that it should come down if something cannot be done to address its weaknesses, Conservation Committee Chair Judy Murphy told the Almanac. The committee would see things differently if the tree were not a hazard sitting next to the field, she added.

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