Friends of Carmel Forest scores more room in city budget for seedling care.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
An old Monterey cypress takes the shape of the wind, dark branches framing Carmel Beach. The image graces photographers’ portfolios, travel blogs and visitors guides.
Carmel-by-the-Sea’s stately cypresses and pines are icons of the “village in the forest,” and local tree-huggers are the Loraxes who speak on their behalf. They were partly rewarded last week, when the Carmel City Council made a last-minute budget adjustment to increase from one to two part-time tree waterers for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.
At the June 11 special budget meeting, nearly a dozen public speakers and letter writers– including members of Friends of Carmel Forest, Monterey Pine Forest Watch and Sierra Club’s Ventana Chapter– asked the council to create a full-time tree-watering position to restore the city’s aging forest.
FOCF’s annual survey found the city lost 362 public trees in recent years, according to group president Clayton Anderson. “The older trees are generally the ones that are gone, so it affects the atmosphere and the character of Carmel,” he says. “That’s why we want to get more trees planted right away.”
For the past two years, the city has employed Kimberly Moscato 18 hours per week to care for public trees. Moscato fills the city’s water truck with non-potable water from underground storage tanks at the end of Ocean Avenue, waters seedlings and plants, stakes and prunes.
Moscato’s work was funded by settlement money that dried up this spring, prompting the city to write her $20,000 position into the draft budget. The second part-time tree-care position added June 11 will use money from the council’s discretionary fund. The move saves about $12,000 compared with hiring one full-time tree caretaker, according to City Administrator Rich Guillen, because state law requires the city to provide full benefits to employees working at least 1,000 hours per year.
But FOCF had offered the city $5,000 toward a full-time position– a donation the group’s board might not extend for two part-time positions. “We only have one water truck,” Anderson notes. “It’s going to take maneuvering on the part of the forestry department to work it out.”
Moscato foresees a “logistic nightmare” in coordinating schedules, workloads and oversight for two part-time tree-waterers. “It’s not until the trees start dying that you realize the person is not doing their job,” she says.
Liability is another worry: “It’s a big truck, and this is a little town with a lot of Bentleys. A lot can go wrong.”
On the bright side, Anderson says, the council’s decision to fund more tree care will allow FOCF to plant a stock of Monterey cypress and pine seedlings at the start of the fiscal year.