Activists worry for health of 141-year-old palm trees uprooted for California Capitol Annex Project

By James Taylor
CBS Sacramento
August 4, 2023

SACRAMENTO – Trees well over a century old are being moved to make way for a new section of the California State Capitol.

While some are digging in their heels to stop them from being dug up, others are warning that these shady symbols of the state may not survive the move.

Retired arborist Dan Pskowski has been closely monitoring the palm trees in the State Capitol Park.

"These palms are actually 141 years old," Pskowski said.

Crews are uprooting 49 of these palm trees along the perimeter of the Capitol grounds and replanting them in other areas of the park.

"The palms go from 10th Street all the way to 15th Street," Pskowski said.

The tree removal is part of the controversial Capitol Annex Project – which is demolishing the east end of the building and reconstructing a new, modern wing.

These palms were moved a month ago and Pskowski says they're already showing signs of stress.

"When this was transplanted, all the fronds were green," Pskowski said. "It doesn't appear that it's going to make it … the shock of transplant was too much."

Crews have installed irrigation pipes to help the trees adjust to their new home.

State officials say the transplanted trees will be monitored for five years to ensure survivorship, and any trees that die will be replaced.

"I'm glad that they recycled them and gave them a chance to be another 100 years old," said one Capitol passerby.

Preservation advocates protested the removal of so many historic trees – and they're still trying to stop the palms on 10th Street from being moved.

The trees had been located between the roadway and the sidewalk, and now there's a concern that moving them makes it less safe for people on foot.

"It gives you a separation between the pedestrians and the traffic," Pskowski said.

But even if the palms survive, Pskowski says the look of the park just won't be the same.

"It took 141 years to get this and we lost it," Pskowski said.

Many of the Capitol's most prominent trees, like the Civil War grove and the Moon Tree, are being protected in place during the construction project.

Read more from CBS Sacramento.