ENCINITAS — A proposed edible fruit tree grove in Glen Park dedicated to recently retired Councilwoman Teresa Barth received preliminary approval from the Encinitas City Council Wednesday night.
The City Council voted 3-2 in favor of approving the plans for the edible trees in the park, as well as opening the door for other community groups to propose fruit trees in public right of way.
The Glen Park project will serve as a pilot project to gauge the viability of fruit trees in city parks and rights of way. Edible plants and trees are not currently among the list of plants the city allows on public property.
While the council signaled unanimous support for the project at Glen Park, which is being done through a partnership between the city, Healthy Day Partners and Cardiff 101 MainStreet Association, the council split on allowing other projects to move forward.
Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear and council members Lisa Shaffer and Tony Kranz voted in support of the change, which they said was more reflective of a culture change in the city rather than opening the floodgates for proposals.
“This is more about saying that these trees are allowable, which currently they aren’t,” Kranz said.
Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Councilman Mark Muir, who voted against the motion, said they wanted to see the results of the Glen Park project to determine if planting fruit trees on city property would add any additional costs to the city budget, such as for maintenance.
“I absolutely support the pilot project and wish it well,” Gaspar said. “But my philosophy is to get it right, not rushed.”
A group of residents — including the entire council — unveiled the proposed tribute to Barth at her farewell in December.
Shaffer said she envisions the grove of trees will serve a number of functions, including providing a food source for needy residents as well as for passersby in need of a quick snack.
The project also calls for drought-tolerant landscaping to be planted around the tree grove. Healthy Day Partners Co-President Mim Michelove said the groups proposing the grove have done months of research and pre-planning to come up with a list of plants and edibles that are appropriate for the Encinitas climate as well as those that are easier to maintain.
A council subcommittee composed of Kranz and Shaffer have for several months reviewed the city’s tree policies and were prepared to release several proposals for changes on how the city catalogues and maintains its trees. The council, at the subcommittee’s request, delayed that discussion until the city hires a permanent city manager.