Carmel, a Village in the Forest by the Sea

This page covers the topic of Trees in our Village, their impact and their future.  It was created as a result of a two page spread in March/April 2023 Voice (scroll to graphic/headder), but has expanded covering recent key dates, meetings and work on an updated Forest Master Plan over 2023/2024. Additions suggestions and comments are welcome. 

February 8th 2024, Forest & Beach Commission Meeting - partial reports on Master Plan

HERE is the YouTube Video starting at this topic. HERE is the Staff Report with reports as attachments also linked here.
Attachment 1 - Tree Species and Attachment 1 - Tree Canopy and Land Cover Assessment Report 

February 2024 Storms Impact

 

This report was included in the City's Friday Letter Feb 9th 2024 HERE.

Increasing Concerns for the Forest in Our "Village in the Forest by the Sea" 
a Community Created Petition 

Scan this QR image or click on this QR code to learn more and participate.  

Our Forest-by-the-Sea Trees need our care for their health, safety and preservation, as they help provide the oxygen that we breath, the cover that shades us, the habitat for wildlife, and yes - they also increase the value of our homes.   

Our critical, noteworthy and area image defining Monterey Pines, Coastal Oaks, Monterey Cypress and Redwoods need our support for the our Village wellbeing, enjoyment, charm and character.

Signing this petition encourages the City project for a revised Forest Master Plan be directed to retain and nurture these significant trees as critical & significant part of the nature in our Village for generations to come.    Nov 2023

New Article - on Monterey Pines and CRA Survey

Monterey Pines have a amazing and unique history and place in our region.  You will find this article very insightful. Read this 2 page PDF on Monterey Pines here

The CRA Survey Aug 2023 included Trees and our Forest - this topic received the most participant comments.  Find these results on page 19 of this comprehensive report HERE.

City Welcomes Community Input via Survey - Sept 27th 2023

City has prepared a Survey for the community HERE. Survey closes Nov 13th at Noon.This input will be applied to the Urgan Forest Management Plan and the roadmap for our forest for the next 40 years.  Please participate!

Update Aug 30 2023 - Covered at the Strategic Priorities half yearly review

View YouTube at time stamp 1:20 minutes, where the Fire Risk topic and the Forest Master Plan topic were also covered.  Lots of passion from the community on these two points on the critical need for more Forestry staff, achieving a healthy forest and calling out tht  insurance is hard to get and/or cost prohibitive.  This topic was also included in the Round 1 release of the CRA Survey here on page 6.

Also see the complete Aug CRA Survey Results - beginning on page 19 for Membership feedback on this topic.
Carmel Pine Cone Sept 8 Issue HERE - see page 21 for mention on our survey results on Village Tree challenges.

Update July 12 2023 - Forest Master Plan Community Workshop

On Wednesday, July 12th our City Public Works held the first Community Workshop for an initial directions and consensus building for our upcoming Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP). The Workshop will be held at the Vista Lobos facility located on Torres Street north of Fourth Avenue.  Here is the pre-meeting agenda link, the presentation slides are here

Update April 13 2023

Carmel-by-the-Sea is indeed blessed by the trees in the forest that surrounds us.  Our trees are a blessing for all of the energy, oxygen, shade, home for wildlife and ambiance they provide us.  But these amazing trees require investment in time and dollars and can also be dangerous in storms with excess wind and rain.  The "atmospheric rivers" of first quarter of 2023 have taken a toll on life, property and utilities more than is commonplace in our Monterey Peninsula.  Our Village Public Works department has been hard at work issuing permits and tending to public trees impacted by these storms. 

Here is the City Public Works Presentation from 4/13/2023 on their efforts and resident interactions.  Please reach out to them with questions issues and the needs in your area.

Here is an article from 4/15/2023 in SFGate "‘Time to take a closer look’: After wild winter, Carmel reviews how it protects its trees.


 

This is the full Article - that was published in part in the March/April 2022 of The Voice

Protecting the Trees in our Village in the Forest by the Sea

Why must we care about our Village trees?  The reasons are many indeed.  And what does “care about” really mean?

Why do some not “enjoy” our trees?  Yes, they can be messy or costly to maintain.  Others complain about taller trees blocking views, roots warping surfaces or that they limit sun access to solar panels.  And those who are remodeling, or rebuilding are frustrated with efforts required to protect existing trees.  However, we’d argue the positives far outweigh the negatives, only some of these benefits included here.

Let’s start with why do our trees matter.  The trees that adorn our little hamlet are primarily the Monterey Pines, Coast Live Oaks, and Monterey Cypress.  Our established trees provide an amazing sense of place and enjoyment in this walkable town.  They screen noise and soften the look of business and residential areas.  Trees help increase property values, some say from 7-20%, with the resulting tax benefits. Trees connect us to nature and history, as they outlast us.

Upper canopy trees protect the environment and the understory trees and vegetation. They catch the fog’s condensation for needed moisture.  And for all who care about climate change forces, trees absorb carbon dioxide – an average tree captures nearly half ton of carbon dioxide over its first 30 years. Trees help moderate wind – with a grove of trees cutting a 20MPH wind to 5MPH.  Trees produce oxygen by reducing pollution, soil erosion and runoff.  And our trees provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Our trees have deep Carmel roots. We all know a bit or a lot about our Village founders Powers and Devendorf in the early 1900-1920’s.  They both highly valued the beauty in the nature of Carmel.   Powers is known for his “romantic love of nature”.  And Devendorf’s tenant was that a community should fit into its surrounding and the natural environment. Devendorf always planted a few trees with each lot he sold and encouraged new homeowners to grow trees with saplings he gave them.  Devendorf was known to take his buggy about town to select locations for new trees.   He also planted pines on Ocean Avenue in 1904 and cypress along Scenic and San Antonio, providing both privacy and buffer for the ocean winds.   In these early days with the sales of lots in Carmel, Devendorf’s message was the opposite of others of the time who emphasized “taming the wilderness.”  He was also quoted saying “I might have been a millionaire, but glad I sold land cheap to painters and poets who were glad to plant my trees.”

Why do these trees love it here? But going back a bunch in time, the first European explorer here, Cabrillo in 1541, named our Peninsula “Cabo de Pinos” because of the Monterey Pines indigenous to only a few spots on the West Coast.  It is said that our pines are the fastest growing pine on earth, when in favorable conditions they can grow 10 feet per year!   So why are our pines so suited to our area?  Well yes, this in part comes from our wonderful summer coastal fog.  Our ocean canyon icy water cools the warmer air above producing our fog.  We know the Peninsula is often covered in fog when the rest of the Central Coast is clear.   Our pines, redwoods, and cypress too, love the fog and are indeed great fog-catchers.

From trees in our windy roadways, to trees in "honor of:, to our majestic Coast Live Oaks and Monterey Cypress

Passion for Carmel trees by "Friends".  In 1989, a group of citizens headed by Clayton Anderson realized what a significant role the forest plays in the ambiance of Carmel and wanted to advocate for it. Concerned about the deteriorating state of Carmel's urban forest due to a triple threat - old age, disease, and construction impacts - the group took immediate steps to elevate trees to the attention of the mayor, the city council, and the residents of the village through the formation of Friends of Carmel Forest. The first president was Barbara Livingston, a Carmel native. Articles of incorporation were drawn up, a board was established, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In partnership with the City Forestry Department, the “Friends” mission is to protect the health of the existing forest, tree canopy and plan for its longevity, reinforces Ramie Allard, the organization’s President.  Their team’s voice against egregious tree removals or pruning, educational programs, volunteer tree planting plus more – help drive results supporting their mission.   In the 2016 Centennial year they planted 100 trees as supplemented by the Tribute Trees program.  This team has recently planted 40 new trees in our beloved Forest Theater, how fitting.   Their organization will continue to advocate our Village forest through your participation on their board and/or with your time or financial contributions.

As a “Friends” cofounder and ageless board member, Steve Brooks to this day continues to apply his energies for trees in Carmel.  Only one current-day effort is his planting and nurturing of replacement cypress trees on Scenic.  Steve stands his ground when some homeowners and real estate folks get a bit cranky about the potential view impairment and the temporary screen barriers protecting the young trees.

Beyond Founders, our City’s role.  Throughout the history of the Village, Carmelites have appreciated the urban forest and sought to preserve it. In 1945 a gentleman was denied a request to cut down his tree, then sent a poem to the Monterey Peninsula Herald: “I asked them to cut down that tree; I was prepared for ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’; they answered me in one word – “nuts.” City Council further formalized its respect for our trees by the establishment of a forestry commission in 1958.  Driven by the determination of council-member Gunnar Norberg, the Forest Commission shifted the responsibility of the City’s trees from the City Council and placed it in the hands of a forester. Our first forester, Robert Tate, was quoted as saying, “Without the trees, the City would be little different from many other coastal villages in California.”  Taking on the forester role for the following 13 years, our local Greg D’Ambrosio was at the helm for openings of the tree-populated Picadilly Park, First Murphy Park, Forest Hill Park, Scenic Pathway and Mission Trail Nature Preserve where he continues to champion its future.  Greg’s forester efforts also included creating the tree inventory city-wide (at that time with 20k private and 12k public trees) and the initial Forest Management Plan. 

From Our City Forester today – Sara says.  We are lucky to have Sara Davis as our Village forester to continue working for the wellbeing of our forest.  Just some of her pointers include:

  • Mulch  It is very important to holding moisture and aiding in the health of our trees.  You can get mulch for free from the City.  Noting mulch is not a fire danger and the fallen leaves and needles help nourish the trees. 
  • Forest Fires We live in a Village with everyone not more than ½ mile from our stellar fire prevention services.  And our Monterey Fire monitors our Village homes, needing to minimize potential tree and vegetation fire threats and hazards. 
  • Drought  Sadly, trees become “stressed” in drought times and are weakened.  This stress increases the Pine Beatles population.  And drought can also increase the likelihood of live oak root rot. 
  • Selecting Tree Care Professionals – When you hire these providers, be sure to check their references and insurance policy certificates (covering their employees). It is also critical that these vendors invest in continuing education commitment to their workers.  Using landscape gardeners to prune trees is generally not wise and often not safe.
  • Safety – Branch and tree safety concerns take precedence over trees impairing views.  Our City code today prohibits pruning solely for views.   Please be thoughtful on where and what you plant, with the long term in mind.
  • Power lines – Don’t plant trees that are going to be 25ft tall under power lines, with all that growth will deliver.
  • This list could continue, as there is more, but we will end it here almost…

Finally, Sara highlighted a few additional important points. A refreshed urban Forest Master Plan will be developed over the next year.  The first step is defining the deliverables and contracting with a consultant for this effort.  Of course, our Forest & Beach Commission will provide oversight for this and there will be multiple public input sessions for residents.  She also strongly recommends your trees are inspected by a qualified arborist every 3-5 years. This inspection can help get in front of growth that creates future risks to property or people and identify early signs of disease or harmful insects.  In addition to skilled staff for the public tree maintenance, Sara has deployed the new online mapping inventory of Village trees, their size, age, type, major events, and health throughout our Village, on public and private property.  This Carmel tree inventory is accessible by the public at carmelca.treekeepersoftware.com.  Check it out.

Including Monterey Pines, Redwoods and Monterey Cypress

Forest & Beach Commission Contributes. Darlene Mosley, the Commission Chairperson, encourages residents to join and participate in their monthly meetings (2nd Thursday afternoons, visit ci.carmel.ca.us/meetings for upcoming and past agendas). One key routine topic includes monthly reports from our forester on tree removals, pending replacements and replanting underway.  Darlene reminds us that pines planted back in the early Powers/Devendorf years of 1910-1920’s are nearing their average 100-year life.  So, the replanting efforts, for especially our upper canopy, are requiring prioritization.  Another common agenda item involves addressing extensive remodels with the impact of the trees on their projects.  All construction projects must carefully protect the root zone on your property, yes, and those of your immediate neighbors too.  Ultimately, where residents are more informed on how to keep their trees healthy and understand the permitting process – the smoother their approvals become. 

Our Village Trees Worth. To wrap up, our trees are indeed a critical part of the Carmel experience, yesterday, today and for the years to come. Whether it’s the City or residents, continuing to invest in what trees bring to our lives and Village, we hope you agree, is definitely worth it.


Resources & References

Our thanks go to Steve Brooks, Greg D’Ambrosio, Darlene Mosley, Ramie Allard and Sara Davis and for their article insights, and to everyone past and present for investing in our “Village in a Forest-by-the-Sea.”
  • www.carmelforest.org/caringfortrees just one of the many helpful pages of the Friends of the Carmel Forest.
  • ci.carmel.ca.us/forest-beach-commission the page of the Carmel City  Forest & Beach Commission
  • ci.carmel.ca.us/forest-parks-beach our Carmel City Forester's page
  • Content for this article was abstracted from the following:
    • Creating Carmel, The Enduring Vision – author Harold & Ann Gilliam
    • City of Carmel-by-the Sea, Carmel Historic Context Statement – Updated 1994-1997, Adopted by City Council 2008
    • City of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Forest Management Plan – 2000, Approved by City Council March 2001 (with a major update coming in 2022/2023)
    • Carmel-by-the-Sea, The Early Years (1903-1931) – author Alissandra Dramov