Christmas Tree Lane annual event threatened by drought

Christmas Tree Lane annual event threatened by drought

Despite rescue efforts, Altadena’s Christmas Tree Lane’s annual lighting ceremony could be the drought’s next victim, according to members of an association dedicated to putting on the annual event.

Located just north of Woodbury Road on Santa Rosa Avenue in Altadena, Christmas Tree Lane lighting ceremony is a nearly 100-year-old tradition. The street is on the National Register of Historic Places and a California Historic Landmark.

“I’m not sure we’re gonna be able to do that,” Christmas Tree Lane Foreman Tony Ward said about the ceremony. “The trees are almost 150 years old. They’re more important, and that’s the priority.”

On Thursday County officials approved a plan that would water the stately deodar trees from a median strip that is maintained by the County Department of Public Works. The trees, massive pines, line both sides of  Santa Rosa Avenue and are festooned with lights during the holiday season.

Ward hopes to have the trees ready in time this year, but said a good portion of the association’s budget will go toward rescuing the trees and installing new irrigation equipment. This year’s ceremony will likely be a more understated affair, he said.

Many of the trees are watered by residents of Santa Rosa Avenue, but about two dozen others depend on the local water table, which is low due to the drought. Drought controls forced many Altadena residents to stop watering their lawns, meaning water couldn’t re-enter the table and sustain the trees, Ward said.

The Theosophical Society is one such resident. Although it has been working with Ward’s group to find a solution, two of the society’s lawns are already completely brown, which has affected Christmas Tree Lane.

“We’re trying to save them,” Society official B. Nildy Davidson said about the Christmas Tree Lane deodars “But it’s a question. I hope we get to save our trees.”

Ward says 24 of the deodars are in danger. In addition to dry weather the trees’ health has been challenged by bark beetles. The pests are ordinarily killed by tree sap, but drought conditions mean that the trees have a difficult time producing sap.

Ward reached out earlier this year for permission to use water from a median strip installed specifically for drought conditions during the ‘70s. When the Los Angeles Department of Public Works refused, it triggered public outcry. Many Altadena residents contacted the county directly, while others filed a petition on Change.org.

“Christmas Tree Lane is nothing without the Christmas trees,” local resident Moira Cue said in a comment on the petition. “It disrespects the founders of Altadena and our history to let them die.”

Although the petition did not reach its goal of 200 signatures, Ward speculates that the level of public outcry motivated county officials to reconsider. The median strip was modernized and opened to the Association as of Thursday. Now, extensive irrigation systems must be installed to help the dried soil absorb and retain water. Some trees will also get medical treatment for bark beetle infestation.

The Association is having a board meeting Wednesday to discuss watering strategies. Ward says that he hopes to have an actionable plan by Thursday.

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