Monday, January 14, 2013

Your Orchard Can’t Wait

Speech to Grants Pass City Council, February 16, 2011 

The article on page 3 of the February 4th Daily Courier, “Brown’s concerns over orchards not shared by all” was subtitled, “City officials refute fire hazard, disease claims.”  That was inaccurate; City Manager Laurel Samson commented, but nothing was refuted.
Samson said about the fire hazard, “We have looked at the fire issue.  As a result, we keep the property cut around the edges.”  That only leaves the bulk of 150 acres uncut.  That can make quite a large, stinky fire, with those plastic lines and treated poles.
About disease and pests, she made two statements: “Samson said the city works with a local farmer who has ‘been keeping that pretty cleaned up.’”  It’s mighty hard to tell from Upper River Road as I pass by once to several times a week.  I have seen no sign of pruning in that orchard.  
But she must have been speaking of the fire hazard there, because later in the article, “Samson acknowledged that the city does not spray the trees with pesticides and she conceded, ‘we are going to have to continue looking further’ into the possibility of disease.”  She later admitted on KAJO’s talk show that the city has not been pruning.
In an abandoned orchard, pests and diseases are not just a possibility; they are an eventual certainty.  You can’t leave a lot of crowded fruit trees of the same type untended without breeding pests and diseases.  A particularly nasty disease is fire blight; it kills and spreads quickly, and devastated Jackson County’s pear crops just 20 years ago.  It’s the reason why they put out their Abandoned Orchards video, which I hope you’ve watched and which is available on in their Videos on Demand.
After I talked to Samson on KAJO’s talk show, Carl Wilson asked her if the city has the money to take out the orchard; she said that she doesn’t think that we have the money to do it this year, just enough to do some basic maintenance that has not been done.  She says that some trees will come out when the city starts developing the land, hopefully with the help of volunteers. 
Earlier in the show, she was talking about our contingency funds, which are there for matters that can’t wait.  This cannot wait.  We have $250,000 left in our Land and Building contingency fund.  I have no idea how much it would take to tear out that orchard.  Regardless of the cost, those trees have to come out now.  If the city can borrow to buy the orchard, it can borrow to clean it up.

Published at Yahoo Voices under Land and Liability #12

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