Over the past year, hundreds of pines have succumbed to the drought and bark beetle attacks. One of the most affected sites is the Idyllwild Community Center.
ICC is popular with visitors and children, even now before any of the proposed improvements have been constructed. With dozens of dead and dying trees, the ICC Board of Directors has had Josh Whitney of Pacific Slope Tree Service felling and removing the dead trees before they fall and possibly create a disaster.
However, some people appear to be offended by, if not opposed to, the efforts to maintain the safety of the highly visited site.
“Folks might notice trees being cut and worry that we are denuding the site,” wrote Chris Trout, ICC advisor to the board for marketing. “Because of the drought and in some areas the impact of soil compaction from cars parking all over the site, we are losing trees.” Less available water has affected some trees as well as assisted the bark beetle in doing more damage than normal because the lack of moisture impairs the tree’s ability to create sap that helps expel the beetle.
Last Wednesday morning, Whitney’s crew arrived at the site to begin more tree removal and discovered graffiti, “Stop hurting Idyllwild,” painted on their equipment. Other vandalism was perpetrated Thursday night but did not involve Whitney’s equipment.
Robert Priefer, on the ICC board, pointed to one tree, totally brown, and lamented, “It must be at least 200 years old.” Looking at the skyline, one can see mostly brown and dead pine needles.
Many of the trees are along Strawberry Creek, whose flow has fallen substantially during the four-year drought, and are used to more water being available.
Last fall, the ICC used Whitney twice to remove trees, a total of 40. Since then, more have died and this effort has identified 61 trees to remove. None of the felled trees were removed for the future construction.
After contracting with Whitney in January, Priefer said, “I went away for two weeks and when I returned, I found 10 more dying trees.”
Obtaining the county permit will enable the ICC to improve its protection efforts. “The future site development, with appropriate parking areas with drainage, will help,” Trout said.