City unveils master plan to replace trees

$1.5 million project is scheduled to be completed by June

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More than two years after Hurricane Sandy damaged thousands of trees throughout Long Beach, resulting in their removal and prompting actor Billy Crystal and city officials to call on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for their replacement, the city presented a comprehensive plan last week to restore the aesthetic of tree-lined streets.

At the Feb. 17 City Council meeting, Department of Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba presented the city’s Master Tree Replanting Plan, a $1.5 million project that the LiRo Group, the engineering firm overseeing the work, expects to be completed in June.

“Everybody’s aware of what Sandy did to the tree population here in Long Beach,” LaCarrubba said. “The city, along with LiRo, has been working really hard to put together a plan to replant the city. And to plant it not just the way it was, but with a lot of thought behind it … to beautify us going forward with diversity and resiliency. I’m really excited to get this process started.”

Close to 2,400 trees that were dead or substantially damaged — many inundated by saltwater — had to be cut down after the storm. LaCarrubba said that the plan calls for 2,700 new trees to be planted, representing a greater variety of species than before — a total of 52 species, officials said, including Japanese black pine, American elm and red maple.

“We’ve got the best possible choices for the program as you guys move forward,” said Chris Hricik, a LiRo representative.

Last year’s tree-removal process grew contentious, with residents expressing confusion over why seemingly healthy trees were being cut down. LaCarrubba explained at a council meeting last July that many trees that appeared to have survived were heavily damaged and dying.

Hricik emphasized that care had been taken to select tough, adaptable trees that will survive future storms and thrive in Long Beach. Short, narrow trees will be planted along the president streets and in the Canals, he said, while species with more colorful foliage will be added at intersections, and larger trees will be planted farther back from streets to provide residents and their homes with shade.

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