Rancho Santa Fe Association board keeping close eye on tree health, fire risks

At the March 3 board meeting, the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s field operations manager, Arnold Keene, gave a report on what is considered one of the most valuable assets to the community — its trees.

RSF Association President Ann Boon said the board plans to have Keene provide more frequent updates as the trees are such an important issue.

Rancho Santa Fe’s forest of its signature tree, the eucalyptus, has gone through years of struggling and dying attributed to factors such as insects and drought. The red gum eucalyptus has suffered the most, Keene said, noting that pine trees are also being killed at a rapid pace due to the proliferation of the pine beetle.

The RSF Association’s field operations crew works to continue to adapt to the changing water culture due to the drought and keeps removing dead and dying trees as a community focus for aesthetics as well as safety.

“There is potential fire risk in areas where trees have overgrown and have not been maintained,” Keene said. “Fire risk is the first thing we look at.”

The RSF Association is currently working on a $10,000 grant for tree management on the Association-owned 20-acre Ewing Preserve off Linea Del Cielo.

Keene said RSF Association crew workers are not just removing trees but also replanting — last year they planted over 200 trees.

“We replant trees with the long-term goal of creating a more sustainable environment in Rancho Santa Fe,” Keene said, noting they aren’t replanting red gums but still plant red bark and lemon-scented gum eucalyptus, as well as going with more native species such as sycamores.

A lot of work over the last few weeks has been responding to the damage caused by the windstorm on Jan. 31. The one-day event caused a lot of damage, with downed trees closing five roads in the Covenant. Keene said they are still doing clean-up and dealing with trees that the storm helped identify as potential risks in future events.

The board members expressed the importance of homeowners keeping their own properties clear because it has such a huge impact on the safety of the overall community.

RSF Association board member Fred Wasserman said unkempt properties and the fire risk they create is an issue discussed by the Committee on the Natural Environment and is on the agenda when the governing documents committee reconvenes in July.

“The tree issue is very serious issue,” Wasserman said. “We’re going to have to put some teeth into our CC and Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) and our articles in order to deal with this. It will be either fix it or we’ll fix it for you just like a lot of other Covenants and it’ll be fair. We just can’t have the danger and also the deterioration of some of these properties.”