When a tree falls in Hollenbeck Park

July 13, 2011 § 8 Comments

In my work with CicLAvia, I’ve been enjoying passing the time sometimes in Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights. It’s a great historic park in a great historic neighborhood, well-loved by the community… both community and park have been degraded by freeways… but both community and park are hanging in there doing all right.

I forget when I first became aware of it, but I was kinda fond of this tree, leaning over the lake at Hollenbeck:

Lakeside sycamore tree at Hollenbeck Park - August 2010

After Sunday’s CicLAvia group ride, I noticed the tree wasn’t there:

Lakeside sycamore stump at Hollenbeck Park - July 2011

(sorry I didn’t quite succeed in getting exactly the same angle on my before and after shots.) 

It’s It was an old sycamore. The trunk was about 3-4 feet in diameter… something like 50+ years old, I’d guess. What I like liked is the quirkiness of the tree leaning over the lake. I’d be willing to bet that that leaning tree wasn’t planted according to specifications drawn up by a licensed landscape architect. I think it was a tree that grew where it wanted to… and humans ended up working around it… kind of like trees that one sees (very infrequently nowadays) that have ended up in the middle of the road because they were there before the road was there, and the folks putting down the road decided to respect the tree and work around it. (I think there are a couple of these mid-street trees in old hillside streets in Glendale or maybe La Cañada… maybe post in the comments if you can tell us where they are.)

I found it reassuring that sometimes the great old tree stays and we humans have to work around it. Here’s to wishing that we humans would have the humility to work around more trees, landscapes, creeks, etc.

I don’t know why that leaning sycamore was removed. It’s entirely possible that it was a good reason… or maybe not. I know it’s not any kind of pristine precious habitat, like Arcadia’s oak woodlands or anything huge… but I was sitting reading chilling after the bike ride, and I was disappointed to not see a quirky leaning sycamore tree that I’d come to appreciate.


Tagged: , ,

§ 8 Responses to When a tree falls in Hollenbeck Park

  • Carren says:

    Sad story. There used to be a large tree outside my school that was much the same. It got struck down by lightning.

  • the author of this post says:

    The likeliest explanation is that the tree either failed or was about to fail, and was removed for that reason. Look at what’s happened to the paving outside of the cut lines, which looks like the beginnings of the roots heaving up out from under the asphalt.

    A leaning tree like that is a cantilever, and over time the increasing weight of the tree far away from the point of the attachment can cause the point of the attachment to fail. This is especially true if the anchoring roots are asymmetrical – in this situation the roots would mostly be forced into the area under the paving. So lots of roots under tension on the pavement side, and no equivalent counterbalance on the water side of roots under compression.

    In nature, leaning sycamores fall over into streams and rivers all the time, especially as conditions change (floods, bank erosion). Sometimes they wash down the river and wind up re-rooting themselves in odd positions, even upside down. Most riparian trees aren’t designed for maximum longevity and stability; their strategy is more what you might call opportunistic and aggressive.

    All things must pass: none of life’s strings can last.

  • Skr says:

    This is completely off topic, but do you know if they are starting work on another phase of the Taylor Yards project? There is heavy equipment and it looks like they are removing soil an putting it in rail cars to take for treatment. The equipment is in the strip between the river and the railline.

  • There is no greater example of a tree ending up in the literal and figurative “middle of a road” than the oak whose estimated 1,000-year-long life came to an end in 1998 in the Louise Avenue island build around it just south of Ventura Boulevard in Encino.

  • I just checked this out on Google Earth and I can see the tree! 😦 It also looks like this lake may occupy a historic creek channel. Any chance the sycamore started its life along a creek? (probably not, if it was so well-entombed in that concrete).

  • Sonia says:

    There’s a street in South Pasadena called Chelten Way which has oaks growing in the middle. The part I’m thinking of is the block south of Monterey Road.

  • Ezra says:

    Joe, the tree was gone on the 10th–I was chilling in the park before the ride and I noticed it was gone as well, and was saddened. I’m hoping it was for good reason.

  • WALT! says:

    Bummer. This tree was a favorite sight at Hollenbeck Park.

    We have a great pave-around-me-tree in Highland Park on very appropriately-named, Oak Crest Way: http://www.flickr.com/photos/waltarrrrr/4911097597/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading When a tree falls in Hollenbeck Park at L.A. Creek Freak.


%d bloggers like this: