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Livermore Locals Fight To Save Centuries-Old Oak Tree

LIVERMORE (KPIX) -- Long before Sunset Park in Livermore was created, a Valley Oak stood at the location where the park would eventually be located. In fact, at 300 years, the tree was here before the United States was created. That's what has people fired up.

"It all started when we came out here and we saw this fencing," said Terry McCune, who lives nearby.

A few months ago, the Livermore Area Recreation and Parks District cordoned off the tree and left a sign saying it was "under examination" to see if it would be cut down.

Two arborist reports confirmed that some branches contain rot and cavities and the district says if one of them should break off someone could be hurt or killed.

"I think it's a heavy-handed, knee-jerk reaction that most cities have. It's risk management," McCune said.

The neighbors say their beloved oak is a "heritage tree" and that the arborists' reports do not recommend removal. Instead, they advise relocating the nearby play structures, pruning and adding support devices to the tree and erecting a fence around it warning the public to stay back.

An online petition was started and quickly got more than 300 supporters.

Nischal Belthangady, who lives across the street from Sunset Park said, "So far, we've kept ourselves to this neighborhood but if we reach out across the city I'm sure we could get thousands of signatures."

The park district is in a difficult spot. If someone is hurt now it could be considered negligence. Still, they're looking for solutions that would limit their liability without inciting the public to revolt.

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