Landscaping Project Starts with Tree Removal

Andie Cohen, Staff Writer

Much to the shock of area residents, as well as students, trees along the perimeter of campus facing both Moraga Road and Campolindo Drive were felled over spring break as part of the first phase of a landscaping project funded by Measure E that will drastically change the face of the school.

Along with new trees, metal shutters covering many classroom windows will be removed, school buildings will receive a new coat of paint, and doors will be replaced by summer’s end. 

While the rows of trees were considered by many to be one of the few aesthetic highlights of the campus, which was built over a half century ago, Jeff Arnold, an architect with the AUHSD, said, “We took down certain trees that were basically at their life’s end. The Monterey Pine in particular typically has a 70 to 80 year life span. Basically, they were showing signs that they were at that point.”

Arnold said that trees were also suffering from disease and other ailments, such as the infestation by beetles. The resulting dead wood was a hazard.

In the wake of the tree removal, principal John Walker has heard from a number of concerned students, parents, and neighborhood residents; however, he is optimistic about the future of the campus. “The removal of unhealthy pine trees along Campolindo Drive and Moraga road has certainly created a stark look; however, new trees are coming,” he said.

According to Walker, the new landscaping plan was developed over the previous 2 years.

Arnold said the project will continue into the summer of 2016, and is sure to be done before the new school year.

The project will include the planting of several tree species: October Glory Maple, Eastern Redbud, Western Redbud, Raywood Ash, Deep Red Crape Myrtle, Chinese Pistache, Aristocrat Pear, Coast Live Oak, Valley Oak, and Soquel Redwood.

In addition to the trees, new ground cover and shrubs will include Compact Strawberry Tree, Wild Lilac, Cape Rush, Fortnight Lily, Evergreen Currant, Society Garlic, and Dwarf Periwinkle.

While most of the campus trees were removed, those deemed healthy, such as the Redwood Trees near Campolindo’s back parking lot, were left standing.

In addition to the concerns about the aesthetics of a tree-less campus, there have also been complaints made about the increased noise from traffic on Moraga Road now that there is no natural buffer, as well as the noise caused by equipment like tractors used by workers.

English teacher Chris McNevin, whose classroom is located in the C hall near Moraga Road, said, “It is bothersome. It is a distraction to both me and the students, and it makes for a difficult teaching and learning environment.”

Nevertheless, Walker chooses to focus on the finished product: “We’ve received a lot of questions about the landscaping project, and a few complaints about the way the school currently looks, however when we speak with folks or correspond via email about what it will look like then people tend to get excited,” he said.

Sophomore Carolyn Gagan said, “As of now, it doesn’t look the best, but I’m excited to see the change in the 2016-2017 year.”

According to Walker, the school’s current exterior doesn’t correspond with the high level of achievement being accomplished inside its classrooms.  He is optimistic about the future. “I hope that we’ll have a school – and I’m confident we will – that has a physical appearance that is on par with our academic performance,” Walker explained.