Trees planted by town founder dwindling in Los Banos

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comDecember 10, 2013 

Trees planted by town founder Henry Miller and relocated last year to make room for a new business have died.

Paul Cardoza, Parks and Recreation operations manager, said two olive trees at Henry Miller Plaza and one at the Milliken Museum died and were removed. Miller planted the trees in 1890.

“We took them out a couple weeks ago at the plaza and filled in the hole. We haven’t tried to replace them; olive trees are rather expensive,” Cardoza said.

Four of the trees, which were originally located at the north end of East Pacheco Boulevard directly east of Espana’s Southwest Bar and Grill, were removed last year to make room for Les Schwab Tire Center. Two trees were donated to the city and taken to Henry Miller Plaza. The Los Banos Arts Council placed one at the Milliken Museum and another at the arts council building near the Ted Falasco Arts Center. The tree at the arts council building is the only one to survive.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Colleen Menefee, the arts council member who spearheaded the trees’ relocation. “I just have a love for tradition and history.”

The city spent about $500 plus staff time relocating the trees with some voluntary assistance from local businesses. In a split vote, the City Council rejected a plan for staff to remove the trees themselves because estimates listed the cost at $3,000.

Cardoza said the trees may have died because they were removed during the summer.

“It was awfully hot,” he said, adding that he remembers telling someone the trees had a 50-50 chance for survival.

There are 16 olive trees planted by Miller that remain in Los Banos. They include 12 that Les Schwab incorporated into its landscaping, two on Madison Avenue, one at Pacheco Veterinary Hospital and one at the arts council building.

Menefee said she does take some comfort that not all of the trees are gone.

“I just wish there were more,” she said. “It would have been nice to have trees Henry Miller planted at Henry Miller Plaza,” she said.

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