Gum Grove management plan needed, says staff

City Hall

The Seal Beach City Council received and filed a staff proposal to create a Gum Grove Park management plan at this week’s council meeting. District Three Councilman/Mayor Mike Varipapa asked staff to bring the issue back to a future council meeting. However, the city has not yet set a date to begin replacing the tree grove that was removed from the park without city authorization in 2016. At the time, city officials gave the number of trees cut as 150.

This week, Seal Beach staff gave the council an update on the status of the park at Varipapa’s request.

According to the report, which was prepared by Seal Beach Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey, on Jan. 17, the city asked an unidentified master arborist to walk Gum Grove Nature Park and give the city a verbal assessment of the park. The arborist and the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority recommended that Seal Beach establish a park management policy. The policy, according to the report, would:

“• Clearly define a path of travel with signage

“• Preserve and protect the safety of Gum Grove Nature Park users and adjacent residential properties

“• Improve and enhance the current health and stability of the ecosystem

“• Enhance the visual design and aesthetics experience in the park

“• Maintain and ensure public access to the park.”

According to the Kesley report, staff can begin taking action after the council adopts a management policy. Those actions, according to the report, would include planting new trees, native plant restoration, removing hazardous trees and limbs, maintaining public access areas.

According to the report, money from the settlement of the lawsuit over the 2016 tree cutting has been set aside in a tree replacement policy until the management policy is adopted by the council. In July 2017, the city of Seal Beach and Rocky Gentner reached a settlement in the lawsuits over the 2016 removal of trees from Gum Grove Park. Gentner agreed to pay the city $250,000. (The original demand was $89,300.) Each of the two parties paid their own legal fees. The city agreed to notify the Orange County District Attorney’s Office that Seal Beach would like prosecutors to drop misdemeanor charges against Gentner for the tree cutting. The charges were later dismissed.

• In other news, the council approved the purchase of three cars and equipment for parking enforcement staff at a cost of $103,000.

• The council approved the introduction of a Zone Code amendment for Surfside homes. The issue will return to the council for a second reading and approval at a future date.

Gum Grove management plan needed, says staff