News, Culture & Society

City to remove ‘racist’ trees planted near golf course

A row of ‘racist’ trees standing between an African-American neighborhood and a city golf course will be removed, local officials in Palm Springs, California, told neighborhood residents.

On Sunday, Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon told residents of the historically black Crossley Tract neighborhood that the city would remove the line of tamarisk trees and a chain link fence that runs between the neighborhood and the Tahquitz Creek Golf Course, reports the Desert Sun.  

The decision to remove the trees and fence comes after neighborhood residents complained that the 50-foot tall tamarisk trees — an invasive species that blocks views of both the golf course and the San Jacinto mountains — have been lowering property values for decades.  

Palm Springs officials said the city would remove a stand of tamarisk trees that separate a historically black neighborhood from a city-owned golf course. Residents say the trees block their views and lower property values, as well as being a remnant of 1960s-era racism

Additionally, many of the neighborhood residents, the Desert Sun reported, believe that the tamarisk trees were planted in the 1960s as a way to purposely segregate the African-American Crossley Tract residents from the predominantly wealthy white golf players. 

The Crossley Tract was founded in 1956 by Palm Springs’ first African-American resident, Lawrence Crossley, at a time when black people who worked in Palm Springs were banned from living in the city. 

The 10-acre Crossley Tract was intended to be a place where the black families denied housing within city limits could live. The tract has since been incorporated into Palm Springs. 

Ground was broken on the Tahquitz Creek Golf Course in 1958 and the tamarisk trees were planed along the east side of the 14th fairway in the mid-1960s. They were not planted anywhere else on the course. 

City to remove 'racist’ trees planted near golf course

City to remove 'racist’ trees planted near golf course

Palm Spring mayor Rob Moore (left) and council member J.R. Roberts met with 50 Crossley Tract residents on Sunday to tell them that the city would remove the tamarisk trees

During Sunday’s informal meeting with about 50 residents of the Crossley Tract on Sunday, council member J.R. Roberts reportedly apologized for any past offenses on behalf of the city. City officials also said that they only became aware of the complaints in recent months.

It’s estimated that it will be about three months before the trees can be removed. In addition to approvals by the full city council, the removal project will need to be bid on and arborists will need to be called in.  

City officials estimate that it will cost about $169,000 to remove the trees.  

In addition to uprooting the water-guzzling, salt-depositing tamarisk trees, Crossley Tract residents are also asking that the city build six-foot-tall privacy walls for those who want it; replace the tamarisks with the type of trees that were used elsewhere on the course; and install netting to stop golf balls from landing in residents’ backyards. 

Once the tamarisk trees are removed, city officials said that they would meet with Crossley residents to discuss next steps.