May 12 2018

Linda Beach Park Noise Not an Issue, Planting, Littering, Tree Removal, Foxtails, and Uprooting!

Students Observe Piedmont’s Active Park Commission 

Did you know that it is against code to prune a street tree, and you can be subject to a fine for doing so? Or that our Liquidambars are being slowly replaced by Purple-Leaf Plums, or that one hard working team of individuals is single-handedly saving the paws, ears, and noses of Piedmont dogs? These are things I learned during the May 2 Piedmont Park Commission meeting in the Piedmont City Council Chambers.

While Piedmont residents see the benefits of their work every day, few know of the Piedmont Park Commission, which meets once a month to discuss the flora we place near our streets and in our parks, as well as renovations to Piedmont parks.

    This month, the Piedmont Park Commission met to discuss the replanting of trees in our parks and on our streets, Arbor Day, the Linda Beach Master Plan, and the installation of a new bench. The meeting started with a discussion of the replacement of Liquidambars with Purple-Leaf Plums, and the potential problems that the Liquidambar root systems could cause during removal. The commissioners wanted consistency, and wanted to ensure that the plum was the designated tree for replacement. A commissioner pointed out that using plums would restrict the view of residents less, and a discussion about whether residents and gardeners can prune city-owned trees ensued (They cannot, and can be subject to a fine should they be caught pruning).

    The commissioners then acknowledged the Piedmont Garden Club’s donation to insert strip lighting into a public building. The commissioners commented on its expert illumination of the deck and its both contemporary and traditional aura.

    Moving on from this, the commissioners discussed a new meeting about renovations to the Linda Beach Park. They wish to hold that meeting in the Beach Auditorium, and wanted it to reach specifically the neighborhood near the park as they would be the most affected by the changes. PHS student Lena Fleischer spoke out about this issue, saying that the installation of a new skate park and other attractions would not have too much of an effect on the residents’ quality of life, as they are used to noise from Beach Elementary. The commissioners wanted to encourage walking rather than driving to the park and discussed how an added parking lot would affect these numbers.

    PHS students Katherine Irving and Isa West spoke about the planting of non-native species in Piedmont parks, emphasizing the need for more local plants. PHS student Natasha Yskamp-Long spoke about littering in Piedmont Park, and a discussion ensued about how to best keep students from littering.

     Public Works Supervisor Dave Frankel then gave his monthly maintenance report, in which he discussed the ongoing battle against weeds. In particular, he pointed out that since his team does not use herbicides, they must do all the weeding by hand. I discussed this point with him later, and found that his team is responsible for removing as many foxtails as they can from the dog parks, which reduces the risk of dogs getting infections from embedded foxtails in their paws, ears, and even noses.

     A family I know recently had a dog die from a foxtail, which reached the dog’s brain, so I know firsthand how dangerous these plants can be, and am infinitely grateful for the hard work Frankel and his team put into hand-weeding the parks.

    Frankel then went into further detail about the planting of plums and the replacement of American Elms with London Planes. He then discussed the 5 phases of the removal of American Elms, and that they now have only 4 elms left to remove and replace with London Planes. The Commission then ended with announcements concerning the date of the next Linda Beach plan meeting.

    I interviewed Supervisor of Public Works Dave Frankel. Frankel was not here to speak out on a specific issue.  As supervisor, his job is to give a monthly brief of his team’s work at every Park Commission. This month he brought up the issues of hand-weeding, and how it is taking them a lot more work and time than it would with the use of chemicals. Frankel will be back next month to give another briefing, and will presumably be back for every other Park Commission as well, to inform them of the latest on the removal of trees, replanting of new ones, and destruction of weeds. Frankel thinks the meeting went well.

by Katherine Irving, Piedmont High School Senior


 Illegal Tampering with Trees Causes Concern

On Wednesday May 2, the Piedmont Park Commission held their monthly meeting in the Piedmont City Council Chambers. The meetings are held to discuss and receive updates on parks, plants and other environmental aspects within Piedmont.

The meeting started off with a report of three damaged trees at 426 Pala Avenue by Nancy Kent, Parks and Projects Manager. It was noted that the trees were decaying and  concern for branch failure with their poor structures. Jim Horner, member of the commission, recommended observing the trees across the street, which are liquidambar styraciflua and are located just underneath the street’s power lines. Horner also recommended removing those three trees now and place them elsewhere. He finished by saying that the planting should be protected when they are being removed.

The first speaker on this issue was Dave Frankel, the Public Works Supervisor, who said that the trees on Pala Avenue were left as they were found and that there was evidence of illegal pruning and topping by previous residents. The neighborhood block contains a large number of liquidambar styraciflua trees, all planted in tight spacing, which has caused decay and water sprout branch tear outs. Frankel recommended that all of the liquidambar trees be replaced with fruitless plum trees because they won’t impact the views from homes like the liquidambar trees do.

The next topic was the acknowledgement of the installation of new LED lighting around the Tea House. In 2016, the Piedmont Garden Club made a generous donation to the city to upgrade the lighting around the Tea House. Unfortunately, when the mature oak tree near the house died and was removed, the small downlights that hung from the tree’s branches were lost. This made the area feel quite dark and lifeless but the recently installed new lighting was made possible thanks to the collaboration with Thomas Skadski of Lumen Works, in which they designed LED lighting that could be mounted underneath the benches to provide a warm glow to help revitalize the edges of the Tea House decks. Finding the right contractor for this was difficult until the staff began working with Schulkamp Electric to install the Community Hall pole lights, where they then discovered Lumen Works.

The last and final topic of the meeting had to do with an update on the Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan. The city had held a neighborhood meeting on April 25 to hear from residents about their opinion of the Linda Beach Tot Lot Master Planning project. The attendance was an impressive 50 residents plus and the preferred 35% master plan, site analysis and existing condition plans were posted around the auditorium for review. The audience was encouraged to voice their concerns and other comments to become a factor in the summary of public opinion, which was presented to the City Council on May 7.

When the meeting concluded, I spoke with Dave Frankel. He is the Park Supervisor and he gives a monthly maintenance report to the Piedmont Park Commission. He wants to inform the Park Commission of the activities of public works staff during the prior month.  He has recently learned of different American Elm trees that he may need remove and to start planting new street trees. He has much respect for the volunteers who are on the Piedmont Park Commission and the amount of time they put in because they aren’t getting paid for doing what they do.  They are taking time out of their lives to help make Piedmont a better place. Frankel will continue doing his job including reporting monthly to the commission as well as now taking into account the concerns that were addressed by students at this meeting.

by Dylan Bradsby, Piedmont High School Senior


From Trees to Rebellious Pruners, and Everything in Between 

    Upon stepping into a Piedmont Park Commission meeting, it becomes quite evident that this is unlike other government meetings. The sound of impassioned debaters and fiery homeowners all pushing for their beliefs is replaced by the quiet discussion of which trees to plant in the coming year, and updates on the work of Piedmont’s maintenance crew. This government body, which meets once a month in the City Council Chambers, comes together to discuss the parks and plants throughout Piedmont, and any changes or improvements to be made to them.

This particular meeting, on May 2nd 2018, lasted an hour, from 5:30 to 6:30 and had a total of zero disagreements among its participants. The meeting commenced with a discussion about the replacement of dying trees throughout Piedmont, but particularly on Pala Avenue. All of the government officials agreed that an effort needs to be made to ensure the consistency of street trees throughout the neighborhood, so Purple Leaf Plum trees were designated the new street tree for Piedmont. It was decided that these trees would also eventually replace many Liquidambar trees that would soon begin to obstruct views, and will also face issues as they are growing underneath power lines. The Plum Tree were chosen due to their ability to be easily planted amidst Piedmont’s hilly topography, and their low height, which ensures that they do not obstruct any views.

A brief statement was then made about the success of Piedmont’s Arbor Day this year, as well as the success of the LED lights that were donated by the Piedmont Garden Club for the Tea House Bench, which are now installed.

A quick mention was made surrounding the illegal pruning of street trees by residents.  To the surprise of all attending, it was discovered that those caught performing this daring act could be fined, and have been.

Commission Chair Betsy Goodman brought up the hot topic in the meeting -the Linda Beach Park. A meeting was recently held at Egbert W. Beach Elementary School in order to hear the opinions of residents regarding this park renovation. Staff Liaison and Manager of Parks and Projects, Nancy Kent, expressed her enthusiasm regarding the meeting, stating that it was very helpful. Most of the complaints made were surrounding issues with parking, the importance of the tot lot to the neighborhood residents, and issues with the amount of noise a park will attract from people playing sports, skating, and the like.

Piedmont High School Senior and Beach neighborhood resident Lena Fleischer addressed this issue, stating she believed a park would be great for a lot of the local families and children to have a place to play. In addition, she claimed that there was already so much noise coming from Beach Elementary School that a park could hardly turn this neighborhood from a quiet one to a noisy one, when it is already quite noisy.

Next, the issue of trash in Piedmont Park was addressed by Piedmont High School Senior Natasha Yskamp Long. As a frequent user of the park, she has begun to notice high amounts of trash littering it, and even “mountains of hundreds of plastic water bottles.” She credits this increased volume in trash to the lack of follow through regarding the Piedmont Administration’s threat to ban off-campus lunch or get the police involved in the issue.

Student Lena Fleischer then returned to the podium and pitched the idea of hanging up painted signs throughout Piedmont Park to remind students not to litter. Nancy Kent in particular appeared very excited by this idea, and plans were made to discuss it further.

As a Piedmont High student and a member of Piedmont Environmental Club, Natasha’s method, in my opinion, would prove far more effective in eliminating littering in Piedmont Park. I have a more cynical view of the intentions of many of my classmates, and think that handing out detentions to future perpetrators would be much more impactful on the students than signs would be.

Throughout my high school career, I have been a member of two environmental groups, both of which received the fewest number of visitors of any club on club day and have an average turn out of three people during weekly meetings. Although there are many members of the Piedmont High community that care about the environment, the majority do not consider it a high priority, and handing out punishments, such as detention, could have a direct impact on them personally and would show a lot better results.

The last topic brought up at the meeting was that of maintenance. The Piedmont Supervisor for Public Works Dave Frankel updated the room on the extensive and time consuming hand weeding projects that would soon begin in an attempt to avoid using pesticides. In addition, the crew has begun mulching and will soon start planting more London Plane Trees through Piedmont. The staff will begin performing Spring Pathway maintenance and have already fixed a sidewalk and removed a liquidambar tree from Magnolia Avenue.

The Public Works Department has dealt with a couple of Acacia trees that fell down in Piedmont Park, and have pushed back their paving project due to bad weather.   The staff has started their five phase plan for the removal of almost all of the American Elm Trees in Piedmont due to a disease that has impacted most of the trees. There was talk of past replacement of these trees with purported disease resistant Liberty Elm Trees, but this proved to be ineffective as the Liberty Elm Trees were soon infected as well.

After the meeting, I interviewed the aforementioned Piedmont Public Works Supervisor, Dave Frankel, regarding his attendance at the meeting. He said that he attends the Park Commission meetings because it is his job to inform the Parks Commission of the activities of the Public Works Department for the month. He stated that “my concerns are resident concerns.” While he often informs his crew of issues that he sees that need to be taken care of, most of his work is based off of the needs of Piedmont’s residents. Piedmont, it turns out, is a more eventful place than one would think, with Dave Frankel “fielding about 50 calls a day.”  According to Frankel, a big issue he is currently working on is the level of trash in Piedmont Park. Sadly, his team is there almost everyday picking up the trash that should have been disposed of by the students of Piedmont High School. Hopefully, this problem will soon be dealt with by the school so that our helpful public works crew will not have to spend their valuable time picking up after teenagers.

by Isa West, Piedmont High School Senior


Park Commission: Complaints about Trees Obstructing Views; the Supervisor of Public Works and Students Discuss Park Litter

Last Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 5:30 pm, the Piedmont’s Park Commission held its monthly meeting in the City Council Chambers. The meeting discussed many things, from the status of specific trees to the Linda Beach Master Plan.

The meeting began with a discussion of the compromised/dying liquidamber trees on multiple streets in Piedmont. Members of the Commission discussed replacing them with purple leaf plum trees due to their greater ability to latch onto the soil. Parks and Project Manager, Nancy Kent, mentioned that “A lot of tree problems that you deal with are at the sidewalk level.”

Supervisor of Public Works, Dave Frankel, informed the Commission that Piedmont Public Works has completed the majority of their tree removal/replanting for the year and is making very good progress. The Commission also discussed some aspects of the process, wherein Frankel informed them that the Public Works team takes pictures of the trees that are removed so that they can be put back in the exact same way. He also mentioned that some trees planted in the last few years have not taken well to their environment and which species of trees would be better for planting in the future.

Member Nancy Kent chimed in regarding resident complaints about their views being obstructed by tall trees. Frankel stated that replacing liquidamber trees with leaf plum trees would help solve that problem because liquidamber trees grow to be extremely tall, while leaf plum trees do not grow beyond a certain height. Frankel also said that residents have been illegally pruning trees. A commissioner asked him what the protocol was in that situation. Frankel explained that residents have been fined for illegally pruning trees in the past, although it is rare because the only way to catch someone doing it is when a neighbor calls into report it.

Students, Katherine Irving and Isabella West, spoke during public comment on the need for local species of trees to be planted instead of foreign trees. They explained that local trees are better for the ecosystem. I agree that planting local trees is better than planting foreign trees. Local animals such as birds and rabbits will be able to live better in the environment that they are adapted for.

The Commission also discussed the Linda Beach Master Plan. Student, Lena Fleischer, gave her thoughts on the project. She mentioned the idea of having a mural painted by local residents on the bridge facing Beach Park.

The Commission wrapped up the meeting by discussing the issue of trash being left by Piedmont High School students at the park. They brainstormed ways of encouraging students to throw away their garbage. The commission reasoned that there are plenty of trash cans so it is not a problem of accessibility.

In an interview with Frankel following the meeting, he explained that his job is to “inform the Parks Department of the Public Works Department’s work they have done in the prior month.” He stated that “my concerns are resident concerns” and his team receives “about 50 phone calls a day.” Frankel also mentioned that he has taken pictures of the park after lunch and sent them to Piedmont School District Superintendent Randall Booker in order to provide evidence of the trash left behind by Piedmont High School students. Frankel urged students who attended the meeting to voice their concerns to Booker by email or in person.

By Max West, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors. 

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