Vandals destroy 30 trees at Cuesta College

April 19, 2012

Vandals uprooted 30 trees, valued at $4,000,  near the entrance to Cuesta College’s North County Campus in Paso Robles last week.

As a result of the vandalism, the campus is planning to install security cameras and replace the  stolen greenery with  liquidamber trees, said Sandee McLaughlin, the campus’ executive dean.

Between April 11 and April 12, vandals uprooted 27 trees planted along Dallons Drive and tossed the trees into the street. On Monday, April 16, campus officials returned from the weekend to find that three more trees had been similarly destroyed.

“This was a disheartening and costly discovery,” said McLaughlin, who has guided the campus since its opening in 1998. “The North County Campus was built through community support and is a tremendously valuable resource, serving over 3,000 local students each semester.

“Our students and staff have great pride in this site. My hope now is that we can help one another. I am asking residents to keep an eye out and alert me if they see any suspicious activity on campus.”

The trees were about 8 to 10-feet in height. Some had been planted over a decade ago by the city of Paso Robles and later turned over to the college.

Kevin Rice



Random acts of vandalism make absolutely no sense to me. Last Halloween, my girlfriend and I were at a party on the Emabrcadero and took a taxi home as we had been drinking. Next morning, I drove her to get her truck and some jackass had slashed two of her brand new tires.

Now, I can understand if someone doesn’t like me, but she is a sweatheart and loved by literally everyone.

Why someone would yank out all these trees is just as stupid as causing some stranger damage — both financially and psychologically by slashing their tires.

I think vandals should be punished harshly. People cauisng destruction at random are very dangerous. Maybe Singapore had the right idea when they caned that little vandal years ago.

U.S — get caught and get probation, offend again and again.

Singapore — get caught and get caned, never forget it

BTW Cuesta should plant fruit trees.


OMG, are they nuts? Liquidambar?

if Liquidambar was their first choice for tree replacement, what was their second choice? Poison sumac?

I think someone at Cuesta has a pal or crony who has a bunch of liquidambar they want to get rid of. Really, I can’t think of a worse tree to plant in a public place, especially so close to a structure (sidewalk). After about 8 years, they’ll be repairing that sidewalk every 3 years or so.

This is a truly bad decision, which will end up costing them a lot when the trees start to mature.

If this decision is typical for the administrative-level decisions made at Questa, I can see why Cuesta is in such a bad financial shape.

Informed people don’t use Liquidambar trees for anyplace where people will be walking, where there are sidewalks, or where there are water and/or sewer lines.

Their roots are very aggressive and will plug up a septic system in just a few years. Their roots heave and uplift sidewalks, which is a huge safety hazard, and requires frequent sidewalk repairs. Their roots spread far beyond the canopy, and it is commonly advised that a Liquidambar not be planted any closer than 25-35 feet from a structure.

They get HUGE, and are inappropriate for small (less than 1/4 acre) lots.

They are very, very brittle, and, not only are they prone to producing a large amount of litter of twigs and small branches, they will drop a large limb without warning.

The leaves are beautiful in the fall, but a big tree produces a LOT of leaves, and they fall all at once. If you don’t get the leaves raked up and off walking surfaces, they turn slimy, which increases the risk of a slip-and-fall accident.

The seed pods, and their pokey daggers which stick out all over them,are from heII, and even a small tree drops an amazing number of the pods.

They release a very allergy-provoking pollen. People who have never had allergies in their life will turn out to be allergic to Liquidambar pollen.

They can produce a LOT of suckers in your lawn or whatever. If you pull a sucker out, or cut it off at the base, you actually are triggering more to form.

Finally, they are hard to kill. Yeah, you can taken them down to the ground level, but unless you get stump-grinding done (and it isn’t cheap), they sucker like crazy from the remaining wood in the ground.

Here’s a link to a great powerpoint that has a lot of photo images of trees causing problems in the City of DuPont. The majority of the trees are–you guessed it!–liquidambar. This is a good powerpoint to demonstrate problem-causing tree placement.

“Common Tree Issues in DuPont Neighborhoods”



Here are other photo images. There are a LOT of images on the web of problems caused by Liquidambar trees


Sweet gum trees marked for removal”



“Never Plant This Tree In Your Yard”


The Council of the City of Pittwater (Australia) planted liquidambar as street trees. Well, they have caused damage to many homes, and one resident’s homeowners are threatening to take them to court because the damage from the roots to their block wall will cost up to $12,000 to repair. The funny part is the Council is demanding the homeowner get the block wall repaired, but they refuse to pay for the damage the Council’s trees did to the wall!


“Pittwater Council liquidambar wrecks wall – $12,000 repair”



“Developer to Remove 9 Street Trees to Build Office Space and Underground Garage”

….“The existing street trees are liquidambars and camphors, which cause pedestrian hazards along the sidewalk from overgrowth that obstructs a portion of the sidewalk, large roots that push up the sidewalk and conflict with nearby utilities, and the spiky seed pods of the liquidambars that drop everywhere,” said Mike Sartor, Assistant Director of Public Works. “In fact, we no longer plant either of these tree species as street trees anymore because they cause significant damage to sidewalks and adjacent infrastructure.”…..



Excellent post MaryM. Sweet Gums are a terrible choice. If they want the color, try a Chinese Pistache. Low maintenance and good looking in the fall.


That is a great suggestion for a replacement tree. The Chinese Pistache is a more “polite” tree, without aggressive habits.

Also, the Chinese Pistache does not have invasive roots and doesn’t get to be 100′ tall.

Liquidambars are beautiful–from afar, like in the forests in eastern America, where they are native.


Theft you can understand, you want something and you take it. Vandalism, I can’t get my head around, makes no sense at all. We need to find these people and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law before they start torturing animals.


Thinking maybe PR should be voted off the continent, except for the wineries.


What about the story of the board and president that have destroyed Cuesta? That going to cost us a lot more than 30 trees and $4,000.


Yeah, but putting liquidambar trees next to a sidewalk and road will be a “gift that keeps on giving.”

Ted Slanders

“As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live:” ( Deuteronomy 19:5)

So as all TRUE Christians realize, one of the vandals probably hit their friend with a tree pulling instrument and killed him. Therefore, without malice or forethought, he ran into the city and will now live free. Thank our God for allowing this as an example for us to follow!

Theo P. Neustic

Is your life as hate filled as your constant expressions of hate towards God and those who recognize their sinfulness and want to be changed? Have a nice day!

Ted Slanders

Theo my man!

How can you equate actual bible verses as hate?! Yes, our CHRISTIAN God did some very hateful things that we TRUE Christians, other than you, have to accept. It comes with the territory of reading our bible with a discerning eye, and TRUTHFULLY.

You’ll even have a nicer day when you finally realize that our Christian God was very hateful to his creation, and by accepting this fact and moving on!


Agreed. Especially that whole deal with Job.

Theo P. Neustic

Seriously? You are trying to purport the ridiculous assertion that God is telling people to axe one another in the head by mis -representing the meaning of this verse from the Bible. It was God instructing man to have certain cities of refuge so people could be safe from mob rule when an accident occurred.Hate is not possible for God. God is love.”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


Whoever did that just invested in some bad karma down the road…It’s comin….It always does.


Paso Robles trees were probably crooked.


Now THAT’S funny!!