California Nursery Historical Park

 The Boxed Oak Forest

Coast Live Oak trees were once abundant in the San Francisco Bay area as a native tree. California Nursery of Niles in Fremont not only grew these large trees but sold them. Today, California Nursery Historical Park contains an area of large 100-year-old oaks in large boxes. These trees are a testament to the effort put forth in keeping the nursery’s business thriving.

boxing trees is a common practice to tranport larege trees most trees can be boxed as long as as you save the root ball

In the 1950s and late 1960s, California Nursery endured financial difficulties. The company went through a series of bankruptcies. Debt seemed impossible to pay off. The market continued to change and developers made offers for the nursery land to be purchased and converted into residential homes. George Roeding Jr. took out a loan from the Lloyd Berry Foundation due to these hardships. Lloyd Berry was a fellow Rotarian of George Roeding Jr. who held a charitable trust making money through selling fertilizer. As the loan’s maturity date neared, George Roeding Jr. attempted to find a resolution, starting with the large oak trees that were already on the property.

California Nursery was known on the West Coast for its large oak trees. On Block 9 of the nursery land stood several oak trees roughly twenty years old. George Roeding Jr. moved these trees closer to the nursery’s retail area to encourage clients to purchase them. The oak trees were only boxed once officially sold, however, George thought it would entice buyers to have them ready to go. California Nursery workers would begin digging from the side of the tree to create space for the tree to be removed. Boxing trees that were originally in the ground could take up to one year. Once boxed, the trees would then be carried off in trucks.

Various types of trees were boxed, from coast live oaks to cedars, redwoods, and even pine trees. Placing the boxed oak trees closer to the retail area made a positive impact. Clients grew interested in the various trees. Those who purchased any spent about $1,500 to $2,000 per tree. Despite the financial benefit of the live oaks, California Nursery was still unable to fully pay back its loan to the Berry Foundation. The nursery’s properties outside of Niles were lost to fulfill remaining loan obligations. Berry passed on the unfulfilled loan note to the Singer Housing Corporation. In 1971, Singer Corporation foreclosed under CEO Jack Brooke, who acquired the remaining 60 acres of the nursery property.

Singer Corporation planned to build a housing division on the nursery land, however they needed to secure a permit from the City of Fremont. The City required that they issue acreage for a public park in their plans, as each city was required to have a ratio of parks to residence. Twenty out of the sixty acres of land was put aside for parks and transferred to the City of Fremont. The twenty acres of nursery land is now California Nursery Historical Park. 

To this day, the boxed oak forest remains in its original area. The surviving oak trees were boxed by the Roeding family to make space for the neighborhood construction. These original boxes ultimately withered away and the trees grew into the ground once again. The City of Fremont made park repairs in the late 1990s, including creating new boxes for the trees. Local volunteer Jill Singleton honored the original box designs and created a new plan. City employee of building maintenance Bill Marshall rebuilt all of the boxes and had them installed for the trees in 2002. From here, Fremont’s Naka Nursery rented the nursery land from the City of Fremont. They maintained all of the park’s plants and trees. However, after their closure in 2009, maintenance grew scarce. Over half of the historic trees died due to a lack of water. Thankfully, in 2011 non-profit organization Math Science Nucleus (MSN) volunteered to preserve the remaining trees. New soil was placed inside of the boxed trees. MSN worked alongside Richard Valle, the Union City President of Tri-City Economic Development Corporation (Tri-CED) Community Recycling, who worked with one of the local community colleges to employ youth volunteers. Twenty young men learned how to irrigate, dig trenches, compost, and a variety of other green skills necessary in working together in conserving the park.

Today, the boxed oak trees remain in the same area. Unfortunately, only the native Coast Live Oaks remain. The City of Fremont staff and council must work together to ensure that the park does not perish. Both funds and focus on maintenance are required to preserve the California Nursery’s property and history. With the help of local volunteers within the community, the trees remaining and the land itself can be properly nourished and cared for.

 Contribution by: Joyce Blueford, Charlene Dixon (TriCity Voice)


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