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Pine Street tree removal OK’d

Eileen Heath is seeing firsthand the power of a mighty redwood.

The 138-foot tree, a relative babe in the Sequoia family, and a 100-foot cedar are destroying a small house she owns at South Pine Street in Nevada City.

“It’s just gotten to be one thing after another,” Heath said of the home that her family built in 1894 after spending $415 in gold coins to buy two lots on Pine Street.



Now, it will likely cost between $15,000 and $30,000 to remove the trees, according to minutes of a recent planning commission meeting.

The two trees have taken over the frontyard, which is a block from downtown Nevada City and near the South Pine Street bridge. The sidewalks and driveway have buckled, a white-picket fence leans into the sidewalk and the front of the house has been raised. The trees’ expansive, yet weakening, limbs pose a public safety threat as well.




Heath can’t get homeowners insurance so the house sits vacant. Arborist Randall Frizzell said the trees have the potential for “catastrophic failure,” or falling over and crushing everything in sight.

Frizzell, who owns a tree and landscaping company in Nevada City, wrote a nine-page report that details the damage done by the trees and the threat to the neighborhood if they aren’t removed.

After reviewing the report, the Nevada City Planning Commission voted 5-0 to allow the removal of the cedar and the coastal redwood, which family members believe sprang from a seed that was purchased from a gift shop on the coast and planted in 1940.

“If mother had known how large the tree would grow in such a short time, she never would have never planted the tree in the frontyard,” Heath said in the report.

Redwoods, however, are prolific.

Frizzell said the tallest recorded Redwood grew to a height of 370 feet and lived for 2,200 years. Heath’s “very young tree” has grown to be 138 feet tall and 46 inches in diameter in 68 years. The rate of the growth for the plant’s trunk averages just under one inch a year.

Frizzell also is concerned that the redwood’s root structure was damaged when the city worked on the South Pine Street bridge in 1995, making it even more vulnerable to toppling over.

Heath, who lives in Grass Valley with her husband, Jim, has yet to arrange a date for cutting down the trees.

The decision to approve the tree removal was difficult for the planning commission, according to City Planner Cindy Siegfried.

“It was truly a sad decision for the commission,” she said. “They hated making it.”

For Heath, it’s about saving a house that has been in her family for four generations.

“This house is going to stay in the family for eternity, if we can,” she said.

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail pbutler@theunion.com or call 477-4239.


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