By Kristina Houck
Residents at two Solana Beach homes recently discovered holes in the Torrey Pine trees on their properties. The homeowners suspect the endangered trees were poisoned.
“It’s got some brown growth where it shouldn’t. It looks like it’s having some problems,” said Gary Coad about the roughly 60-foot tree on his property. He and his wife, Patricia Coad, have lived at their home on Glenmont Drive since 1985.
This is the second time the Coads’ tree has reportedly been vandalized. Concerned about the browning of the tree, the couple hired an arborist last April. He discovered two holes in the Torrey Pine.
“He found the holes,” recalled Coad. “They were drilled pretty precisely deep into the tree. We presumed somebody put poison in the tree because we have been having problems ever since.”
The rarest pine species in the United States, Torrey Pine trees grow only in San Diego County and on one of the Channel Islands.
The Coads have spent $950 on arborist services and $500 on treatments for their Torrey Pine tree, which was trimmed in December. To prevent further tampering with the holes, Coad filled them with wine corks.
He discovered two new holes in the tree in early March. This time they were also filled with wine corks.
“He [the arborist] said before we had these new holes, April through June would tell us if the tree was going to make it or not,” Coad said. “It was looking good, but now it looks like it has problems again.”
After discovering the new holes, the Coads notified their neighbors. That’s when Richard Hendlin, who also lives at the intersection of Glenmont Drive and Lynwood Avenue, discovered three holes in his Torrey Pine tree. Wine corks had also been inserted in those holes.
Hendlin informed the Solana Beach City Council and the community about the incidents during the March 26 council meeting.
“They are the rarest pine species in the United States and are designated by the authoritative California Native Plant Society as a critically imperiled species, with a decreasing population trend,” he said. “You can therefore understand how unsettling it is for me to come tonight to report to you and the community that recently, on or about March 7-9, my neighbors, Patricia and Gary Coad and I, … were victims of intentional and willful criminal conduct when some person or persons attempted to kill our very old and very mature Torrey Pine trees, which we each have on our properties, by cutting and apparently poisoning.”
Although he is attempting to save his Torrey Pine, Coad noted that if treatments fail, it would cost him roughly $10,000 to remove the tree.
“I don’t want that to happen. I love the tree,” Coad said. “It’s part of the people’s view, but not everyone looks at it that way. So someone is trying to do our and Rick’s tree in, and it’s quite upsetting.”
In the meantime, the neighbors are collectively offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the damage to the trees.
They have also reported the incidents to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Department non-emergency line at 858-565-5200 or call Sgt. Joe Montion at 760-966-3500.