No way to save ancient Tahoma tree
TAHOMA – On the end of a quiet road in Tahoma grows a 400-year-old tree nicknamed Lucky.
To many, Lucky represents classic old-growth. But many locals are concerned after learning that plans to build a house on the small 50- by 125-foot parcel would require the removal of the tree.
In protest, a sign was chained to the tree asking for signatures. On Monday there were over 20 signatures, by Wednesday the sign had been removed.
“Her name is Lucky she is over 400 years old! Lucky was here before us. Please give her a chance to be here for our grandkids,” the sign read.
Angela Hanyan is one local doing everything she can to keep the tree alive.
“We’re not trying to make anybody angry,” Hanyan said. “We just want to save the tree.”
So far Hanyan has contacted a few organizations that specialize in saving trees. One of them was the Circle of Life foundation, founded by Julia Butterfly Hill, a tree sitter that spent more than two years in a redwood tree she named Luna.
“They train professional tree sitters,” Hanyan said.
But because of current conflicts with the Pacific Lumber Company and clear-cutting practices no tree sitters are available, she said.
A permit was issued to Mike McKeen last August by El Dorado County to build a house on the less than a quarter of an acre lot in Tahoma.
“I’m not the big, bad person people make me out to be,” said McKeen, a resident of South Lake.
As a professional home builder, McKeen was willing to work with the county and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to save the tree.
“I’d love to save the tree,” said McKeen.
McKeen said he worked for over a year and even missed the building season last year so he could save the tree. But the time and the money have been exhaustive and McKeen wants to start building the house this summer.
“I was totally agreeable to save the tree but I can’t if no one will bend the rules,” McKeen said.
According to El Dorado County regulations, no trees can be within six feet of the foundation of the house, said Larry Loman from El Dorado County’s building department. This makes it difficult because the lot is too small.
“The original subdivider subdivided the property too small,” said McKeen.
Because of the location of the lot, next to Sugar Pine State Park and at the end of the street near a county easement, it is difficult to make exceptions for the building plans, said Pam Drum of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
The TRPA originally inspected the property before El Dorado County issued the permit.
“It just wasn’t possible to come up with a plan to save the tree,” said Drum.
To build the house and spare the tree, McKeen would have to build the house on the back of the lot and would need an easement granted on the abandoned Cedar Street, McKeen said.
“The rules have been made and no one wants to bend the rules,” he said.
However, El Dorado County and the TRPA said they looked at all of the different possibilities.
“It’s not possible to keep people from building a home,” said Drum.
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