Yenra : Gardening : Pico Canyon Oak Tree : Specialists to Move Pico Canyon Oak Tree to Nearby Park with 120 Existing Oaks

John Laing Homes today announced plans to relocate the 400-year-old Pico Canyon oak tree to an 18-acre, passive park in the community that includes a large oak woodlands area. The tree will join more than 120 existing oaks in the park. An additional 170 new oaks will be planted in the park following the relocation of the tree.

The company has put together a team of experienced tree professionals to oversee the relocation, which could begin as early as next week, said Bill Rattazzi, president of the Los Angeles/Ventura Region of John Laing Homes. The complex relocation could take up to five months, he said.

Overseeing the project will be Valley Crest Tree Co., which specializes in excavating and engineering the relocation and preservation of mature trees. The company also will maintain the tree for a period of at least five years -- an important part of maximizing the opportunities for the tree to survive, Rattazzi said. Also on the team are Lee Newman, landscape architect and oak tree specialist with L. Newman Design Group, and Donald F. Rodrigues, an arborist with Pacific Horticulture. Both Newman and Rodrigues have examined the tree and believe it can successfully be moved if proper procedures are followed and ongoing professional maintenance is provided. The tree is in healthy condition, making it a good candidate for relocation and it's the right time of year to move it, the experts said.

Newman, who has been involved in the successful relocation of more than 2,000 oak trees, said that this species of oak, Quercus lobata, requires water, nutrients and rich soils, which the tree has at its present location. "We will expect to mimic those conditions at the oak's new site," he said.

The relocation will include side trenching and boxing the tree. The tree then will be left in place for a minimum of 90 days. At the end of this period, the tree will be bottom boxed and transported to its new location. The process will include detailed soils, watering, drainage and mulching plans tailored to this tree as well as a specific long-term maintenance plan.

During the past few weeks, John Laing Homes has been working with a variety of groups in an effort to find a viable solution to save the oak tree and also to accommodate the future transportation needs in the Santa Clarita Valley. Company officials met with the Public Works Department of Los Angeles County as well as professional tree movers and arborists to determine what was possible. It was concluded that the best solution for saving the tree is to move it to the nearby park.

The company has been put in the difficult position of following the requirements of a previously approved tentative tract map to move forward with plans to expand Pico Canyon Road to four lanes. Regrettably, this oak tree lies in the path of these planned road improvements, Rattazzi said.

Indeed, John Laing Homes has delayed these final improvements for more than three years, and has worked with various Los Angeles County agencies, environmental and other local groups and individuals to find an alternative solution. It recently became apparent there was no alternative to the road expansion after more than three years of talks with county agencies, because of the continuing need to provide for the future transportation requirements within the Santa Clarita Valley, he said. The planned road expansion is adjacent to a nearly completed 279-home development of John Laing Homes, and is not needed to serve this community, but is designed for future developments.

As part of the completion of the community, John Laing Homes has already taken a number of environmentally sensitive steps, including the successful saving and relocation within the community of eight oak trees that had been legally permitted for removal; creating an 18-acre, passive park that will eventually include nearly 300 oak trees, trails and picnic areas; dedication, at no cost, of more than 81 acres of native woodlands and habitat to the Santa Monica Mountains; conservancy, which is in the final stages of the transfer; and realignment of Pico Canyon Road to permit development of a five-acre riparian vegetation area.

The parent company of John Laing Homes is WL Homes, one of the top five privately held homebuilders in the nation. With headquarters in Newport Beach, Calif., WL Homes ranks 27th on Professional Builder magazine's list of the top 400 homebuilders in the country, based on 2,236 residential closings in 2001. WL Homes was recently selected from among the 100 largest firms in the building industry to receive Builder magazine's inaugural Customer Satisfaction Award for its dedication and commitment to improving the customer's home buying experience. The company currently is focusing its homebuilding efforts in California and Colorado.