Town Crier: Some Montclair tree wells fixed, many still not

MONTCLARION: April 20, 2018

Never underestimate the power of the press. My March 30 column on the dangers of sidewalk tree wells has spurred at least one group into action. “Your little squib got us re-examining our sites,” says Sierra Club Tree Team volunteer Arthur Boone, “and I believe all are now in compliance.”

Now if we could just get the city to fix its tree wells. The mail bag is bursting in the wake of my report about the reader who fell in a village tree hole.

“Thank you, Ms. Prior, for your comments about the deplorable condition of sidewalks in many parts of Oakland,” one Montclarion writes. “It was my misfortune to pitch headfirst into one of those openings, thus incurring a huge gash on my head.” The reader also remembers a merchant who had her arm in a sling, having also slipped into a tree pit. She says several calls to the city from both victims did nothing to improve the sidewalks on Piedmont Avenue or elsewhere in Oakland.

As always, cost is a factor. Volunteer Boone says installing a metal grate around each tree they plant would probably cost twice as much as the new tree itself. “That requirement would consume many of the funds available for tree planting, already limited in Oakland by the budget cutbacks of 2008.”

What the volunteer tree planters do instead is fill the tree well with dirt to make it level with the sidewalk. If they see that the dirt has settled, they add more.

“We maintain supplies of additional dirt at our yard in the Fruitvale area, and if the tree’s sponsor calls this settling to our attention, we will be glad to replenish and regrade the soil on any tree we plant.”

Boone says they also encourage sponsors to install various plants or barricades around the tree at the edge of the tree well to deter trip-and-fall accidents.

“Your article reminds me that the tree’s sponsor, who has already promised to water the tree for the first three years after its planting, should probably also promise to call our attention to the settling of the soil around any tree we have planted.”

Around town: Piedmont and Millennium high school students are hosting a diversity event from 1 to 3 p.m. April 22 in Piedmont’s Community Hall and Park. The “Unity in Community” festival will feature youth-run booths and appearances by Power Beez, Together We Slam and other performance groups. The students say they’ll have a food truck on site to feed the hungry.

Montclair muses: The annual Restaurant Walk is April 24. Camber, Kouzina, Kukui and a bunch of other tasty eateries are part of this dine-around. The Lion’s Club has held the ticket price steady at $25, and that’s a bargain — especially when you consider all the causes it funds.

Fur love of the office: Meanwhile, there’s no truth to the rumor that Montclair’s cat mayor is retiring, which is a bit unsettling for her press secretary.

“I feel like I’ve inherited this thing for life. I’m ready to get into consulting … something on the other side of politics,” says her human handler. But convincing Stomper to give up her seat at the political table may be hard. Last time she was asked, her exact words were “And give up all these free meals? What fur?”

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at or on the web at




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