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— I mentioned Sevier's contention that it was dangerous to surround eucalyptus trees with irrigated grass. I asked if Bakken agreed. "No," he said. "That's the case with some species of native oaks in California, but it's not necessarily an issue with eucalyptus. I mean, you can obviously overwater something."

"Do the four remaining trees at the Old Town plaza cause any concern for you?"

"Oh yeah, we inspect for root pathogens. That's what we do all the time, especially in a landscaped area."

"Would the tree that blew over be a sign of potential problems with the four remaining trees on the plaza?"

"Possibly. I had inspected the trees in December and didn't find any problems that gave me concern. And I looked at them again after the failure, and I came to the same conclusion."

"When you looked at the one that failed, you didn't see any pathogens?"

"Oh, there were some there. But I recognized that before when I looked at it. I had some concern about the tree, so my recommendation -- and I put it on the records -- was to have the crown worked on. And the tree had also been worked on earlier in the year. The crown had been reduced as well, last spring. We treat each tree on an individual basis and look at its structural integrity and its health. We know we are coming back in one to two years to look at it again."

Again, I expressed Sevier's concern about the danger of eucalyptus trees in public places. "I take it you disagree with him?"

"Well, we've had 30 years' experience. And what do we get? Seventy million visitors a year to our parks. We've had very few deaths, very few injuries. You know, a modest amount of claims. But I'd say, all in all, the program's working reasonably well. Each species has its own attributes, and some of them are compatible with a developed area, others are less compatible with a developed area. You basically have to take that into account if you are planting or replanting or whatever."

"Are the trees in Old Town, then, more compatible?"

"We didn't plant them."

That point was also stressed by John Quirk, chief spokesman for Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The trees were not originally on the plaza but were planted in the early 1920s, at the latest, by the city. They have been regularly inspected, Quirk said, and "There has never been anything indicated by our internal or external consultants that would predict the massive tree failure that happened in that windstorm. Now that we've had that type of failure, we are evaluating the future of those trees."

Trees Australians have nicknamed "widow makers."

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