Trees and their history

Dear Editor,I just read Stacey Rodgers' letter, "People Before Trees" in The Downey Patriot (9/9/10). I take issue with her remarks the palm trees are not over 100 years old but "barely 90 years old and a menace to our current residents." By this reasoning should we rip out all of the beautiful historical palm trees in Downey? Or perhaps, imagine a Downey with no trees? I suppose any resident can make a case that trees in general are a nuisance. I live in north Downey and walk by those trees all the time and never occasioned any hazard from their seasonal droppings. I was also unaware of the many "Broken legs, twisted ankles, and broken feet" those two very tall trees caused. Can she document these serious injuries? Did the Public Works Department verify them? Was the condominium homeowners association aware of them? Either way, I respect her right as a citizen to complain about this issue and have sympathy if she was injured. With her view of this matter all palm trees (and other trees) in Downey merit removal and are a public safety hazard. I will personally make it my goal to stop any further destruction of historic trees. The two palm trees in question marked the homestead of Mr. Hogan Willeford, a longtime Downey resident and businessman. Mr. Willeford built a stage depot on 2nd Street in 1920 and opened a new theatre, the "El Teatro Bonita," the same year. In 1921, with J.I. Boheim, the Orange Manor Tract was opened; marked today by beautiful tree-lined neighborhoods. I take issue with Ms. Rodgers' comment about Hogan Willeford, saying he "would approve the removal of these now menacing palm trees." Why did he plant so many trees in the first place if he expected them to be such a problem? Looking around Downey you will notice other double palm trees marking old homesteads: on Cherokee Drive at the old Ball/Steere home, at Maude Price School on the original Ball citrus ranch, and also at 10th Street and Brookshire Avenue. Other historic palm trees line Downey Avenue, Dolan Street, Rives Avenue and also Tweedy Lane, roads which date back to Downey's early history. Paramount Boulevard was once lined with palm trees also. They give our city character and are a part of our incredible history. These palm trees have survived for close to a century and represent a time when Downey was covered with orange groves and ranches. A look into the history of Downey reveals a unique American experience; exploration into local history is a fascinating and rewarding experience for the citizens of a community. If we study the roots of early community life and organizations we can discover the American dream in the small measure of everyday life. "No generation is an island unto itself. Whether it wills it or not, it carries the heritage of the past from which it sprung; and adds a measure of influence upon the future. With knowledgeable awareness of the past it can better understand the present, and make a meaningful contribution to the future". Ms. Rodgers' contribution to the future was the destruction of two innocent trees whose only crime was to mark a spot in Downey's wonderful history. I know she felt this was important, but I feel other alternatives were available to solve the problem. The Public Works Department has gone to great lengths to fix sidewalks and save trees in Downey. I'm sure the local property owner has a gardener who comes weekly and cleans up most of the debris from those trees. I am baffled on how these particular trees were such a hazard. I would even volunteer to help solve issues like this if it saves historic trees or homes. I'm sure many residents would do the same. I can only imagine Downey without trees, because all trees have some form of fallout and root growth. The statement, "please let the remaining and currently living residents have some peace of mind…it's the people that make a great city, not the trees" is selfish to say the least. Peace of mind is a concept and to many residents it is enhanced by all the beautiful trees in Downey. Trees are subjective, that is, particular feelings, beliefs, or discovery made from information pertaining to a personal experience. Both Mr. George Redfox and I care deeply about Downey, including its history and the safety of its citizens. We grew up here, make our home here, and have raised children here. We hold a deep appreciation of Downey. Should we consider people before trees? Certainly, but we should also consider our great city's wonderful past, including Downey's historic trees and homes. We embrace an obligation towards their preservation. I wish Ms. Rodgers the best, but respectfully disagree with her letter. -- Larry Latimer, Downey Larry Latimer is a local historian and author of the book, "Images of America, Downey."

********** Published: September 16, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 22