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County Arborist To Assess Drought-Stricken Trees At Cachuma Lake

Rangers at Cachuma Lake are dealing with a new drought concern in the middle of August. It has nothing to do with the lake, but rather, the trees surrounding it.

The lack of rain, nature’s wear and tear and something called “sudden limb drop” — where branches break off without warning — are all cause for concern at the Santa Ynez Valley lake these days.

Experts link the phenomenon to prolonged drought and intense heat; The mercury hit 93 degrees at the lake Friday afternoon.

“We do our regular assessments at the park level but we thought with this kind of severity, it was time to have an expert come in and give us their expert opinion,” said Michael Allen, North County Operations Manager.

A massive oak tree near the entrance to the lake still has yellow caution tape wrapped around its trunk and a giant gauge after a huge limb broke off weeks ago.

Near the swimming pool, a wide stump is all that’s left of an old oak recently chopped down.

Allen estimates so far this summer, as many as five trees lost limbs and one tree toppled over. He believes that is a higher number than usual and could be linked to the severe drought.

Allen says that’s despite thousands of dollars earmarked annually for Cachuma Lake, from an $80,000 pot shared by county parks for tree maintenance.

Starting next week, a county-hired arborist will begin testing the thousands of trees dotting the campsites to see how viable and safe — or high-risk — they are for campers and visitors.

“He’ll be targeting a lot of high-use areas and kind of give us a phase one assessment. And we’ll move on from there .. what kinds of options we have,” said Allen.

Camper Andy Ruiz, who prefers sites with big shade trees says he feels better knowing these majestic beauties will be given a second look-over during our record dry spell.

“That’s good news. There’s something we can do as citizens of Santa Barbara County to help, in terms of conservation, to take care of this land we live in here for the next generation,” said Ruiz.

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