As an Artist, I was blown over by the wonderful avenues of trees in Santa Monica and decided I wanted to live here because of them. The Ficus, or “Green Gem” trees, I regard as one of the most beautiful. They are endlessly fascinating to draw, sculpt or photograph: one moment they can be perceived as elegant, multi-branched candelabra, the next as sensuous as human limbs- or part of an elephant’s body. The avenues are like a Gaudi interpretation of the Aisles of a Mediaeval church, with Fan Vaulting. I have included this tree in a series of Lightboxes that I am developing. More about that later.
You can imagine my dismay when I learned of Santa Monica City Council’s plans: to cull 2nd and 4th Streets of 54 of the magnificent Ficus trees- cutting down 23 of them (claiming them to be “decayed”) and re-locating 31 mature trees, unlikely to survive transplantation. Independent arborists believe possibly only 2 trees need attention. The plan is to replace them with slow-growing, deciduous Ginkgo trees that will never supply compatible eco benefits.
It appears to be a “design” project- to “beautify” the streets. The Council also complain of the roots destroying the sidewalks- but there is an answer to this right on our doorstep: Richard Valeriano- who was Santa Monica’s Senior Sidewalk Inspector- developed Rubber Sidewalk panels- using recycled rubber tires to produce a flexible, easy to maintain alternative to concrete. This system is now used in ten States.
On learning the Council’s plans, I immediately joined SANTA MONICA’S TREESAVERS- a fast growing group of Tree saving activists- including both Senior Citizens and High School kids. They are all intelligent citizens who actually realize that Global Warming is real and that trees are of enormous importance- especially large-canopied, evergreen Ficus Trees- absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutants; emitting pure oxygen; supporting other forms of life; keeping the streets cooler; and, not least, raising the spirits of pedestrians with their beauty. Ficus Trees have even- ironically- been declared by the City’s own Forester as “The Champ” of Urban Trees.