Last Friday, the last two trees were removed from the grounds surrounding the City Administration Building.
At first, I questioned why any of the trees had to come out just to make things easier for the contractors doing the work on the historic building.
Then, when they removed the trees on the back side of the building, it didn’t make sense that the front two trees were left. It was no doubt a political decision, but it soon became obvious those last two trees were also in the way.
So three days ago, they came down.
But what transpired is that the beauty of that Beaux-Arts building can now be appreciated even more.
The building — in spite of its topside bandaged by extra-strength chicken wire to hold in the bricks and some roof tiles that were damaged in the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake — looks beautiful fully exposed.
In fact, Atascadero’s founder, E.G. Lewis, inspired by what he saw in the 1904 World’s Fair on the outskirts of St. Louis in Missouri, envisioned a new city here where its streets radiated out from the civic center. The idea for a Sunken Gardens came from that same worldwide exposition.
I would not have thought it until I saw it, but with the other trees that are in the park and that line both East and West malls, the clearing around this city’s “seat of government” seems to take on a more dynamic appearance; it seems somehow even more like the heart of Atascadero that Lewis wanted it to be.
I know the late Marj Mackey, founder of the Historical Society and the Atascadero Land Preservation Society and our first female mayor, would have been aghast at the removal of the trees. Our 40 years as friends caused me to be more sensitive to the trees, but in this case, the decision to remove them all was a good one.
And while I see the removal of the trees as a good thing for the City Administration Building, I am disappointed with the lack of landscaping of any kind around an otherwise beautiful project at the intersection of Highways 101 and 41.
The new freeway bridge, with its brick façade, sidewalks below and street lighting, is beautiful. But the overall lack of any new trees, plants and shrubs at this very important gateway into our city is disappointing, to say the least. Even across the street, the landscaping along Highway 41 heading east looks good.
We need the same final touch at the freeway interchange.
Lon Allan can be reached at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.