The headline alone, of the Mercury News article, is inflammatory, “Sunnyvale apricot orchard could lose trees as Heritage Museum seeks to expand”. “Could lose”? Why not say “could lose trees and have them replaced”? Part of the proposal is to remove and replace all of the affected trees, a maximum of ten; there was never even the possibility of removing trees without the intention to replace them. Why not say that? Because headlines that predict a calamity get an emotional response, and therefore get you to read their paper!
Here’s a recap of the basic facts about the proposal so that everyone has the chance to catch up and understand what this is all about:
- In February of 2019, the Sunnyvale Historical Society and Museum Association put forth a proposal to the City to expand 1600square feet, at the rear of the museum, which would extend a few feet into the Heritage Orchard. (The museum, run by a non-profit organization, is on City land, and the orchard also belongs to the City).
- The purpose of the extension would be for two reasons. First, to create exhibit space for current and modern history, due to recent declassification of materials which bring to light the importance of military installations on the former Onizuka Air Force Base here in Sunnyvale. Second, to create a research library where citizens, City staff, developers, and companies can do research about the land and history of Sunnyvale.
- The Heritage Orchard consists of approximately 840 trees; the extension would affect 6 to 10 trees, which would be removed and replaced in another part of the orchard.
A lot of misinformation was spread from the outset. Cut down trees?!! How could you consider destroying Charlie Olson’s orchard? The author of the Mercury News article was mistaken when he wrote the orchard was “one of the oldest and last remaining orchards”. This is false. Here’s why:
- The Sunnyvale Heritage Orchard is part of the Community Center which the City established in 1973.
- The land on which the center was built was purchased from both the Pavlina family and the Cupertino School District.
- Of the twenty acres the City originally bought, ten were later dedicated to preserve apricot trees on the land.
- The City employs Mr. Olson to take care of the orchard.
Being a good neighbor
Heritage Park Orchard represents part of Sunnyvale’s history and is of utmost importance to its citizens; there is no doubt about that. The SHSMA has a deep respect for the orchard and the history it represents. Because the museum is next to the orchard, the proximity heightens their neighboring relationship. Here are some facts that clearly demonstrate this:
- In 1997 the SHSMA petitioned the City to designate the area that is now Orchard Heritage Park to be a city park.
- In 2001, the SHSMA created a pavilion (next to the orchard) that houses a permanent exhibit about orchard history in Santa Clara Valley
- Every year the museum hosts a school program, designed to educate third grade students (47-50 school visits a year, with 26 students per visit.). Teaching the students about orchards and their history is an important part of their experience.
In the article, Mr. Olson is quoted: “If you don’t have an orchard like this, young people would never know what a good apricot tastes like”. That is absolutely true, and it is due to the efforts of the SHSMA many years ago, that Sunnyvale still has an orchard.
Orchard photo at top, by John Loo