Neighbors save a mighty oak | March 7, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - March 7, 2008

Neighbors save a mighty oak

YMCA begins tree clearing for new Alamo facility

by Natalie O'Neill

On Tuesday, a 50-foot oak tree stood on Lewis Lane in Alamo, leaves quivering in the breeze. By Wednesday it had been plucked up with a 100-ton crane and dropped off in Vin Rover's back yard.

Rover, who lives on the border of the San Ramon Valley YMCA property, knew about YMCA's plan to chop down five trees just yards from his gated community. It had to happen to make way for the new 12-acre facility infrastructure.

But he didn't want all of the trees to go to waste. So he made arrangements to have a contractor box, hoist and transplant the oak into his yard.

"I thought, 'Wow, these are beautiful,'" Rover said. "But we were really only able to save one."

YMCA representatives agreed to leave the tree standing and to charge Rover no fee for it.

"We were going to take it down and they asked if they could have a contractor come in. Of course we were thrilled," said Kathy Chiverton, executive director of the San Ramon Valley YMCA.

Rover said he'd rather not comment on how much transplanting the tree will cost. In general, though, cost depends on the species of tree, the distance it will be moved and the caliper size - or height - of the tree.

Contractors began boxing the tree Monday. Turf in the Rover yard was cleared near the center of the property to replant the oak.

"We're gonna dig a hole and drop it in," Rover said.

The home builder, his wife Caroline and his seven children have lived in their gated Alamo community for about four years. The couple is concerned about how the new facility will affect their neighborhood.

"It's going to practically be in our back yard," said Caroline Rover. "That's a worry of mine - what kind of noise it is going to bring."

The project includes buildings designed with a rural theme and situated around an open meadow, with a 10,800-square-foot "airnasium" - an indoor/outdoor basketball and sports court area with its western wall enclosed. Plans for the 40,000-square-foot facility also include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, picnic facilities and picnic areas, and a 40-foot-high climbing wall.

The YMCA still has $800,000 in funds to raise and is gathering it from individual donors and community fundraisers. People can also purchase a brick with their name on it at the Y in support of the facility.

"Hopefully people will want to be part of something that's going to be here for generations to come," she said.

If all goes well, infrastructure contraction will begin in fall and the YMCA will open by late spring or early summer 2009.

Chiverton said people are telling her they cannot wait for it to open. Seniors are looking forward to the heated pool, and teens will have opportunities for employment.

"I think it's incredibly exiting to be taking these first steps," she said.

Taking out the trees was an unfortunate part of the building process, Chiverton said.

"It's not something we're happy doing, but it's necessary," she said.