The tranquility of Annadel State Park's forested hillsides will be pierced next week by the shriek of chainsaws felling dead trees throughout the 5,000-acre preserve.
CalFire crews will begin toppling about 2,000 Douglas fir trees that have been killed over the years in an effort to keep them from overrunning the native oak woodlands.
The slopes of the park are marked with such towering snags. Their lifeless limbs stand in ghostly grey contrast to the green canopies of the park's much older oaks.
Annadel State Park's Dead Trees
They're an eyesore to some park visitors and felling them will improve the aesthetics of the park, said Gerald O'Reilly, maintenance chief for the Marin/Diablo Vista state parks district.
“At this point it's basically a clean-up project,” he said.
Taking them down now also will reduce future maintenance, he said. The trees were “girdled” — cut with a chainsaw around the base a few inches into the sapwood — more than a decade ago to keep them from shading out the shorter oaks. Biologists expected them to rot and fall over on their own, but many of the sturdy trees have remained defiantly upright.
“That part didn't go quite as planned,” O'Reilly said.
When they do fall on their own, the trees can block trails and roads, forcing park maintenance crews to remove them. Cutting them now will reduce that future workload, O'Reilly said. The work also will give CalFire crews an important training opportunity, he said.
The trees won't be removed or harvested for lumber but will be left on the ground to rot, O'Reilly said. Removing them would require the use of heavy machinery that would do more harm than good, he said.
“Skidding logs out of the forest was going to do a lot of damage to what we were trying to protect,” he said.
What they're trying to protect is one of the best examples of native oak woodland in the state. Studies have shown that the suppression of wildfires in Annadel has allowed the faster-growing fir trees to invade the oaks' territory.