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  • Writer's pictureShawna Bonnett

WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH: The Red River Gum (Eucalyptus) Trees On Arcadia Dr.?

Pensive onlooker in front of historic trees

Trees? What trees?

The Red River Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) is a species of eucalyptus tree native to Australia. The bark of the Red River Gum is typically smooth and white or pale gray, but it can become rough and flaky with age. The leaves are lance-shaped and usually dark green or bluish-gray. They emit a pleasant eucalyptus scent. Additionally, the Red River Gum is commonly found along riverbanks, floodplains, and other water bodies. It requires a significant amount of water to thrive and is well-adapted to wetter environments. It is here, in the Arcadia Neighborhood, alongside of the irrigation ditch that runs south of Lafayette on Arcadia Dr. that you will find 27 Giant Eucalyptus trees. They are each around 100 feet tall!

Oh! Yes...Those Trees. I love those trees. What about them? Dr. Herbert Johnson “Tim” Louis was just a boy when he planted the red river gum eucalyptus trees. This was in the 1940's when the original 24 acres surrounding the property were used for cultivating citrus. That means the trees are about 80 years old!! They are a beautiful gateway into the neighborhood in my opinion. Often this kind of tree is planted as a wind break, erosion control, or even mosquito repellent. When asked why he decided to plant the trees alongside the irrigation ditch, his answer was, 'because his mother told him to'. Thank you Mrs. Louis! Now, as with any living thing, maintaining an old Red River Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) tree requires thoughtful care to support its health and longevity. Older trees have specific needs and considerations. Here are some important tips for maintaining an old Red River Gum tree:

  1. Regular Inspection: Conduct frequent visual inspections for signs of stress, disease, or damage. Look for cracked or peeling bark, dead branches, and any unusual growth patterns.

  2. Pruning: Focus on removing dead or diseased branches. Older trees may not require extensive pruning, but selective removal of problematic branches can improve overall health.

  3. Maintain Structural Integrity: Address any structural issues, such as split or weak branches, to prevent potential hazards.

  4. Monitor for Pests and Diseases: Keep an eye out for signs of insect infestations or diseases. Early detection and appropriate treatment can prevent further damage.

  5. Avoid Major Root Disturbance: Be cautious with any construction or excavation near the tree, as disturbing its roots can be detrimental to its health.

HOWEVER, only 11 of the 27 trees can be cared for. What?! Why? Well, with likely good intentions, in 2002, the City of Phoenix placed 2,870 LF of the historic Burgess Lateral (aka irrigation ditch running along Lafayette and Arcadia Dr.) on the National Register of Historical Places. SRP pointed out that the eucalyptus trees are "integral to the ditch and therefore they are historical". What this means is that with the "historical designation", SRP can't touch the trees; City of Phoenix claims that it's the homeowners responsibility to maintain property within 25 feet of their property line (huh?); and the HOA for the (adjacent) homes -Arcadia Estates, doesn't believe that they should pay extra for tree maintenance on trees that are simply not on their property. (Ironically, the 11 trees that DO get cared for are being maintained by the Arcadia Estates HOA.)

map of irrigation ditch in historic  Arcadia Neighborhood

Historical or Hysterical?. Well, if a branch falls, (and they do), depending on where it falls will depend on who is responsible for to cleaning it up.

  1. falls into the road = City of Phoenix.

  2. falls into water ditch = SRP

  3. falls onto sidewalk = Arcadia Estates HOA

  4. falls into a homeowners lot = resident

  5. any eucalyptus leaves that blow over to O.H.S.O. get mixed into a craft beer. (ONLY KIDDING)

A problem that no one can solve is how to PREVENT dangerous dead branches from falling in the first place, or allowing an expert to care for and nurture the trees that are designated as essentially "untouchable". Arcadia's Historic Red River Gums have care needs that challenge neighbors, corporations, and even the government...simultaneously. It's really the strangest story of all.

hand written sign in front of tree trunk reads Arcadia loves you but you are on your own

Hand written sign in front of tree trunk reads "for now"

The Arcadia neighborhood is full of like-minded, neighborly, charitable people who will take responsibility for problems that are not theirs or assist other neighbors if they can use some help. I've seen neighbors with trash bags, tackling the unkempt area when it gets bad --yes...EVEN ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DITCH! (gasp). When you see this, consider giving a helping hand. Also, just thinking out loud, but maybe reconsider your route during a monsoon storm.

I'm a busy Realtor, Mom and many other things. I'm not currently in a position to coordinate this level of change. But, I'm happy to share the story, as it is part of our history, our present, and our neighborhood. Reach out if you have comments or questions, I can direct you to our neighborhood resources regarding this matter. I know of a group that is currently working on this issue and they would welcome the additional minds and efforts. Thanks for reading.

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