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La Jolla Sunrise Rotary wants to replace Rec Center’s leaning tree: New one could become La Jolla’s official Christmas Tree

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Sunrise Rotary Club president Kilma Lattin stands next to the tree that could be replaced, pending City approval.
Ashley Mackin-Solomon

To solve the two-fold problem of a precarious leaning tree at the Rec Center and the lack of a decorate-able community Christmas Tree onsite, the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club wants to take on the task of planting a replacement tree that would be short-enough to easily decorate for the holidays.

Rotarians proposed their plan to the La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group (LJRAG) during its Jan. 23 meeting at the Rec Center.

In 1984, La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club dedicated the Star Pine on the Rec Center lawn, at the corner of Draper Avenue at Prospect Street, but today — at over 60 feet high — the tree has become too expensive and challenging to light and adorn. So for the last two years, a smaller, temporary tree has been brought out and decorated.

Further troubling, a tree that was planted for the Rec Center Centennial in 2015 (on the other side of the front lawn) has begun to lean toward the building and has required City maintenance.

“Since the Star Pine tree is no longer a viable option as a community Christmas Tree, we’re proposing to follow a long line of tradition; La Jolla Sunrise Rotary would like to once again, donate and dedicate a tree to the community for the purpose of Christmas, and replace the damaged tree,” said Kilma Lattin, Sunrise Rotary Club president.

Deodar Cedar Courtesy

Lattin said he consulted informally with a local landscape architect who has done prior projects with the City, and who suggested four possible trees that could meet the holiday needs and survive in this climate: 1) a Deodar Cedar, which can be seen along Orange Avenue in Coronado and are “wispy”; 2) a Star Pine, the same as the existing tree, but would pose the same problem by outgrowing its space and maintainability; 3) an Aloe Medusa, which Lattin said was a favorite of the late Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) but may not look “Christmas-y”; and 4) a thick, low-growing tree known as an English Yew.

Aloe Medusa Courtesy

“The plan is to gain a right of entry permit to replace the tree and install a new plaque,” Lattin continued. “We would pay for the removal of the old tree and installation of the new one, and we would like to start the process immediately because we don’t want to go another year without a community tree, and we know the process could take a while.”

In attendance was San Diego Park & Recreation area manager Rosalia Castruita, who said she would be willing to facilitate the right of entry process, but would need additional information from the vendor, and would need to consult with the City arborist to confirm that the recommended choices would be viable at the location.

Trustee Lizette FitzCluster called the prospect “innovative” and “exciting.”

As to which tree would ultimately be chosen, Lattin said it would have to be a community effort with some input from the City, from the board and from the Rotary Club.

LJRAG Visioning Committee chair Jill Peters opined that the next few months would be the best time to plant something, so the tree would not be planted during the busy summer months, and would have enough time to grow so it could be established by Christmas time.

A motion to replace the current tree with the help of the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club passed unanimously.

In other LJRAG news:

Electrical work switches on: A project to upgrade the electrical system to light the exterior of the Rec Center, including the basketball courts, has been completed, Castruita reported. The work has been underway for months, and faced a series of delays.

With the completion of the electrical work, the project to resurface the basketball court to make it ADA-compliant and re-stripe the courts can begin. A timeline for when the courts would be resurfaced was not available. However, the City has funds set aside for bringing the exterior courts into ADA compliance, slated for use this fiscal year.

Possible piano concerts: To take advantage of the grand piano (typically hidden from view, but housed at the La Jolla Rec Center), AmateurPianist chair Lulu Hsu proposed twice-a-year concerts. AmateurPianist, she explained, is a 501(c)3 organization that provides free performance opportunities for adults and free recitals to the public.

“We hold monthly events where amateurs and the general public can gather to share their love of classical piano music, to learn from invited experts and master classes, and network,” she said. “Since we do not charge a membership or attendance fee, we depend on access to free venues with a tuned piano. We’d like to consider the La Jolla Rec Center as a monthly venue.”

Concerts are typically held on weekends, and Hsu said she would like to use the center “once or twice a year.”

Trustee Mary Coakley Munk advocated for the concerts. “It would be a nice opportunity because we have this wonderful piano in here; it’s time we do something with it.”

A motion to support the concept of two recitals (dates to be determined) passed unanimously.

Visioning Committee report: Chair Peters said the Visioning Committee is discussing the playground renovation projects. “We have requested that we be involved with any bathroom design work associated with bringing the restrooms into ADA-compliance, but we are still waiting for Park & Rec for that information,” she said. “The plan is to re-fashion the sink heights and access, but the committee would like them to be aesthetically pleasing at the same time.”

— La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group next meets 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.