The fate of a Valencia oak tree is in limbo after its limbs fell off over the weekend.
Officials are hopeful residents will once again be able to tie a ribbon around the old oak tree or, at the very least, appreciate the looming shade it provided in the Bridgeport Marketplace shopping center at the corner of Newhall Ranch Road and McBean Parkway in Valencia.
“We’re still kind of assessing the situation,” said Chris Hailstone, property manager for Intertex, which owns the lot where the 150-year-old oak sits. The Valencia-based property company has received numerous calls from concerned residents, he said.
“It was kinda heartbreaking to see this thing fall apart the way it did,” Hailstone said. “It was quite shocking the way it fell apart.”
The company has had three different inspectors look at the oak, including Robert Sartain, the city’s oak tree specialist.
Sartain performs an inspection any time a felled oak tree is reported, he said, “to see if it collapsed, how it failed, what the condition of it is.”
“Basically, that tree broke off at about six feet — it just snapped off and it’s got a big hollow cavity in the middle,” Sartain said.
The oak has a diameter of about five feet, and it was about 60 feet tall. The top of the tree was about 80 feet in diameter.
Because the tree had a hollowed out center, the figure on its age was just an estimate, Sartain said.
“Normally, with this type of oak tree they don’t grow back. Once it breaks at this point, its called a complete failure.”
It’s not the first time Intertex officials expressed concern about the tree, Hailstone said.
In 2005, an arborist looked at the tree and gave it a grade of D, which meant it was not likely to survive.
“We’re surprised the tree lived as long as it has, but no one expected it to collapse like this,” Hailstone said. “We’ve babied it and gave it special attention.”
“Definitely all of the branches have to be removed — that might be as late as Monday,” Hailstone said, adding that the company was still looking at bids.
“We’re considering leaving the trunk right now to see if that lives. If it doesn’t live then we’re planning on grinding out the stump. We’re trying to give it the benefit of the doubt,” Hailstone said.
Due to the status of the tree, the property owners have been granted an exemption from the city’s Oak Tree Ordinance, which was famously the city’s first piece of legislation for the City Council in 1987, when the city was first incorporated.
“It’s certainly a loss to the community, it’s a beautiful tree,” Hailstone said. “We certainly understand that tree has a great value to our residents. It’s really unfortunate.”