For over 150 years this majestic oak tree grew in the sandy soils of Central Alameda. In 1909, Washington Elementary School was established on the site, beginning a long and intimate relationship between the tree and the school community. In 1955, when the tree was already around 90 years old, a new Washington Elementary School was built around the oak tree. The school was renamed Maya Lin Elementary school in 2012. Generations of Alameda’s children grew up playing around the tree. The tree stood in the playground for a total of 107 years.
Sadly, our amazing oak tree was finally felled during the stormy night of December 15, 2016. It was a beloved community landmark and a piece of Alameda history. Its absence is felt every day at the school.
Preservation and Remembrance
On the night that the oak tree fell, parents and teachers were active on social media sharing pictures, telling stories about the tree, and planning for ways to utilize the wood for various art projects for the school. At morning assembly the next day AUSD workers were already on site with a crew, chainsaws, and a large chipper-shredder ready to clean up the tree and make the playground safe. Several parents intervened to allow some portion of the tree to avoid the shredder and the crew was very cooperative. In the end, they cut up several large cross-sections of the trunk, dozens of chunks of limbs, and hundreds of sections of the branches which were given to every student at the school. Principal Goodwin led the students in remembering the tree that morning, and many classes developed projects based on what the oak tree meant to the school community.
From the pieces of the trunk and branches that were saved, we hope to build an educational display for the school and a community bench. In this way, we hope the tree can live on. You will find some potential ideas we are exploring linked below. Click on the FUNDRAISER link to donate or purchase prints.
The Oak and Alameda
The oak at Maya Lin was a coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) which can often live to over 250 years of age. The age of the Maya Lin Oak was calculated using a combination of tree-coring to count annual growth rings and a formula that uses the circumference of the trunk. But it may be that our tree was even older than the estimate of 156 years!
These oak trees are native to California and grow from Mendocino County down to northern Baja California all along our coast and inland up to 50 miles. There is a very good chance that the oak at Maya Lin was a small sapling (or even an acorn!) around the time of Alameda’s founding in 1854. The tree would have been part of a large oak woodland that covered all of the higher elevation areas of Alameda.