The Christmas spirit lives in San Fernando. And so does the City’s Christmas tree.
San Fernando officials say vandals killed a tree that was planted in the median of Brand Boulevard and Celis Street two years ago. But a new one, donated by the Moon Valley Nursery in Fillmore, was planted two weeks ago and City officials have began to cover it in ornaments on Wednesday, Nov. 30.
The official tree lighting ceremony will take place on Dec. 8. Besides the tree, the City of San Fernando this year is adding more holiday visuals — LED Snowflakes at 30 locations along Maclay Avenue from First Street to Fifth Street; Market lights at four locations along Maclay Avenue from First Street to Fifth Street; and various pole holiday decorations in the Downtown Mall area.
Mayor Robert Gonzalez said he was driving home when he heard a Moon Valley advertisement on the radio. “I contacted (City Manager) Brian Saeki and (Deputy City Manager) Chris Marcarello to talk with them and see if we could negotiate a price because it’s important to us to have a live tree,” Gonzalez said. “They donated it to us instead. It was more than I expected.”
The new tree is an Eldarica pine. Originally native to Afghanistan, the Eldarica Pine has a proven ability of surviving, and even thriving with little or no supplemental water. But City engineers have included a specific irrigation system to help keep the new tree healthy.
Eldarica Pines are often used as large shade trees or planted in groupings for a wind-breaker or privacy screen. They can grow to heights of 50 feet, with branches spreading out 20-25 feet. Many people will purchase the Eldarica Pine as a living Christmas tree, and then plant it in their yards after the holiday season.
City Councilmember Sylvia Ballin had paid for the 2014 tree by returning the funds she is allocated by the city to use for travel to business conferences. It was lighted with great fanfare on December 11.
But last year, Ballin believes, someone slowly killed the tree by repeatedly spraying its roots with chemicals. Ballin said officials eventually found bottles of Roundup people claimed was used on the tree.
When the tree was planted in 2014, however, it was not doing well under the city’s warm weather and drought. The tree that was purchased was not native to Southern California, and normally grows on the state’s central coast.
It did make it through last year’s lighting ceremony, but died soon after.
“I guess someone didn’t like the idea of the Christmas festivities on Brand Boulevard,” Ballin said. “It used to been on Maclay Avenue. That first year it was on Brand. But that’s my own conclusion.
“I just can’t imagine why it was so important (to harm the tree). But people can do strange things.”
Marcarello said, “I’ve worked many years in government and I’ve never heard of anything like this,” adding, “we were lucky to get another one.”
Ballin said no one has been identified and charged with destroying the tree. But it might be easier to keep eyes on this one.
“We have different storefronts that have cameras and video equipment that we didn’t have two years ago. So it should be easier to catch someone [in a malicious act],” Ballin said.
Electronic eyes won’t be the only ones keeping a watch over the tree.
“[The City] will be checking on it regularly,” Marcarello said.