Old orchard to be removed from river bottom

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Ojai Valley News photo by Tim Dewar

The citrus trees in this river-bottom orchard will be removed starting next week.

Bill Warner, Ojai Valley News reporter

The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC) has joined the effort to protect the state’s citrus resources from devastation by the Asian citrus psyllid. While the California Department of Food and Agriculture is gearing up to spray residential citrus trees next week, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy will be destroying an old orange grove in the Ventura River Preserve.

The project will eliminate approximately 3,000 orange trees, according to OVLC Restoration Program Manager Jill Lashly. Planted in the 1950s, the trees cover approximately 36 acres along the river, she said. They have not been tended for years, she added. Many of the trees are dead and few produce fruit. 

Lashly said the project has three objectives. The first is the removal of a possible habitat for the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect recognized as a primary vector for huanglongbing, an incurable disease of citrus trees capable of wiping out crops on a large scale.

The second objective would be that of reducing any fire hazard, especially that presented by the old orchard’s dead wood.

And third, she said, removal would clear the ground for replanting with native vegetation, including live oak.

The removal process would begin Monday, Lashly said, with the entire project taking about 15 days. The trees will be shredded in place by an excavator equipped with a grinder attachment.

OVLC stewardship director Rick Bisaccia said four trails would be closed in the River Preserve from Monday through Oct. 28. These are the Wills Trail, the Rice Trail, the Oso Ridge Trail and the Orange Grove Trail.

“Essentially, most of the western side of the preserve will be closed during this time,” he said Wednesday. “The trails will be chained, and signs will be posted.” All other trails in the preserve will be open, he said.

Bisaccia said the closings were for the safety of people using the preserve. There would be heavy equipment in and around the old orange grove, and the attachment used for shredding the trees tends to extrude wood chips at high velocity.

© Ojai Valley News, 2015


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