CARLSBAD — Concerns and questions were raised to city officials and biologists Tuesday at the Calavera Hills Community Center as residents near the Lake Calavera Preserve demanded answers to non-native tree removal.
The situation began when the Carlsbad Municipal Water District obtained a permit from the state to remove native vegetation near the dam to allow for safety inspections.
The permit requires mitigation measures, which means the eradication of non-native vegetation in the preserve.
In addition, a new unisex restroom will also be constructed.
Residents peppered city staff and biologists about the application of the herbicide, how an estimated 120 trees will be removed, wildlife protections and other factors. The herbicide is the controversial Roundup Custom, which contains glyphosate as the active ingredient.
Those in attendance, about 30 to 40 people, appeared stunned when it was revealed the city began the process in 2011 without informing residents in the neighborhood.
“It’s par for the course,” said Amanda Mascia, a five-year resident of the neighborhood. “There is no public trust.”
Several residents spoke of their disappointment with the City Council, which approved the action in June.
During that council meeting, one resident loudly objected to the process saying other than a few scattered notices posted in the preserve, no public meetings or other measures were taken by the city to alert residents of the plan.
The project was delayed to hold the public forum, but is scheduled to begin in August with the application of the herbicide.
Mexican fig palms and Brazilian peppertrees will be injected with herbicide and cut down with chainsaws. However, numerous trees will not be pulled out of the preserve after being cut down as doing so would cause too much damage to the landscape, according to Biologist Mike Trotta of LSA Associates.
All trees, though, will be cut into sections to be either removed or spread throughout the preserve.
Those efforts will begin in September after bird nesting season, and will run from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. After the removal, native species such as western sycamore, western cottonwood, coast live oak, California blackberry, red willow and Mexican elderberry will be planted.
Sherri Howard, associate engineer, said after the tree removal, irrigation measures will be installed followed by a 120-day planting period for native species, which isn’t expected to be until March 2017.
“They had a profound effect on the native vegetation and wildlife,” she said.
Kathleen Prichard, a 23-year resident, asked why the trees must be removed since they have been in the preserve for at least 40 years, which could make them more native than non-native.
Trotta said the current species do and can wreck the ecological system, so removal is the best option.
Prichard, though, said she was more concerned about the herbicide and possible effects if it were to enter the soil.
Other residents questioned city staff why the project appeared clandestine.
Craddock Stropes, a senior management analyst, said it has been a “roller-coaster ride” the past several months. However, she said recent situations with the city and resident is opening up dialogue and the city council understands the residents’ concerns.
“The community has their (the council) attention,” Stropes added.