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Visitors Wary of Fragile, Dying Trees in Nipomo Community Park

NIPOMO, Calif. - Keep your eyes on the trees! Visitors to the Nipomo Community Park are keeping an extra eye out for diseased trees in danger of falling. According to San Luis Obispo County Parks Department, it's doing what it can to remove the problem before disaster strikes.

"I kind of worry about it, now more obviously," said park visitor Mark Mendibles. "Pretty soon there will be no trees left. They'll be gone."

Mark Mendibles and his dog are frequent visitors at Nipomo Community Park. But the dozens of dying, seemingly unstable trees are beginning to be a cause for worry.

"When you're out in the middle of the park, you see a lot of widow makers just lying on the grass. Twelve-foot, fourteen-foot branches just laying on the grass from a fallen tree," said Mendibles.

Cleanup crews were busy this morning, tending to a Monterey pine tree that fell during high winds yesterday. The tree was already in a weakened state, similar to many of the trees in the park.

County Parks says many of the trees have been infected with a disease that commonly affects Monterey pines. They almost always have to be cut down, and it's left a minefield of tree stumps all over the park.

According to County Parks, more than 40 of the 250 Monterey pines at the park are infected with pine pitch canker. It's  a fungus transmitted by beetles that carry the disease to new trees. The trees then die slowly, their pine needles turn reddish-brown, and branches fall one by one. It's forced County Parks to cut down dozens of trees over the last 4 to 5 years.

"I've been coming here for about 7, 7 and a half years," said Mendibles. "I've noticed more and more trees disappearing, either fallen over or ben cut. You notice the beetles in them, you can see the sap coming out. The woodpeckers aren't even hitting them anymore."

According to County Parks, about 7 to 10 trees are cut down in the park each year to eliminate any potential hazards that may be present. At this time, the county is working with an arborist who regularly surveys the park. They'll continue to closely monitor the situation and work towards the goal of cutting down all trees that are dead or dying.

Monterey pines were frequently planted in San Luis Obispo County back in the 1960s and 1970s, but none have been planted here since then.

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