Parents concerned about aging and distressed trees at city parks

Over the weekend, part of a tree crash landed on a San Jose playground. And while no one was injured, plenty of parents were panicked. 

It happened early Saturday at River Glen Park. A Chinese Pistache tree split and fell, landing right on a children's playground.

"You want to believe that the trees that are at the park which are so beautiful (it's what makes this park so great) that they're safe. So it's alarming," said parent Bonnie Hennum.

It may be alarming, but it's not uncommon.  Witnesses say a large tree branch fell next to the playground at Fleming Park two months ago.

And in October of 2016 a tree limb fell at Happy Hollow Park and Zoo crushing a bunch of empty strollers.

San Jose's arborist estimates there are about 1000 limb failures on city trees each year.

"We know we are underfunded. We just do not have enough to do all the tree work we would need to do on an annual basis," said Russell Hansen, the San Jose City arborist. 

But a million dollar Cal Fire Grant now aims to help with that. This fall, San Jose will take inventory of all city trees, flagging ones that are in distress. They'll also begin taking public comment. The aim is to develop a community forest management plan, something they've never done before.

"How we manage all of our trees, how we prioritize all of our trees. When you talk about trees around playgrounds, things along those lines, that's all going to be defined in there," Hansen said. 

Parents say they like the idea of taking a more proactive approach when it comes to the trees. No one was hurt when this most recent tree fell. But they say next time we may not be so lucky.

"It seems like it would be a good idea, at least starting with the ones closest to the playground," said parent Caitlin Petty.

Lindsay Zimmer, also a parent, added "That would probably be the best safety procedure to make sure that there are no other trees that are on the brink of breaking or anything like that, especially near children."

The damaged tree at River Glen Park has been removed. Authorities don't know why it fell, though they say that particular kind of tree sometimes weakens with age. Work the management plan should start in October and go through March of 2020 when the grant expires.