Encinitas considers criteria for public fruit trees

A council subcommittee is closer to firming up recommendations for fruit trees on city property.

The concept is that the public could pick from the trees, expanding access to produce, especially for those in need.

The Urban Forest Subcommittee, made up of Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz and Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, considered criteria for determining which areas could accommodate trees during a July 8 meeting at City Hall.

The subcommittee, along with residents in attendance, also identified potential spots for a pilot tree project.

Mim Michelove, co-founder of Healthy Day Partners, a nonprofit that spearheaded a farm next to Ocean Knoll Elementary, suggested a chunk of land just outside the Encinitas Community Library at 540 Cornish Drive.

“It’s so accessible, and it would be wonderful if the trees were part of the Encinitas library,” Michelove said.

Shaffer and others said the spot is worthy of consideration. It will be included in a report summarizing the subcommittee meetings, which will go before the entire council in the coming months.

The council, Shaffer noted, aims to put forth a list of locations for the fruit trees. However, it would be up to volunteers to plant, harvest and donate what’s grown.

“The city has not committed additional resources, time or money to cultivate edibles on city property,” Shaffer said, adding that the city’s involvement would probably have to be budget-neutral.

John Frenken, city parks and beach superintendent, pointed out a barrier that could preclude some spots. On land irrigated by recycled water, the county would require the city to maintain the trees.

Hence, sites offering potable water are a priority.

Several residents said organizations, if encouraged, would be likely to take an interest in planting fruit trees.

In response to concern over the initiative demanding too much city staff time, arborist Mark Wisniewski volunteered to help the groups determine suitable properties.

To do so, he’d walk them through a checklist, a draft of which was unveiled at the meeting.

A sample of the criteria: Is water readily available at the site? And would fruit trees fit in with the surrounding area?

And the location must be safe.

“We’re not talking about medians with traffic on both sides,” Shaffer said.

Representatives from the Leichtag Foundation, an organization that owns the 67-acre former Ecke Ranch property, said fruit trees could go on a city-owned parcel on Quail Gardens Drive.

That way, the trees would connect with Leichtag’s planned “food forest” — a host of fruits and vegetables for the food-insecure. It would run on the northern edge of the Leichtag site, between Saxony Drive and Quail Gardens Drive.

The subcommittee didn’t discuss which kind of fruit trees could take root. In light of the drought, city officials have said one challenge is finding varieties that wouldn’t demand too much water.

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