There is big news in old B’game! Our El Camino Real trees have just been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Here's the back story:
Looking at the tree-lined streets of Burlingame today, one would be hard pressed to imagine a time when the San Francisco Peninsula was largely devoid of trees save for some native oaks dotting the hills. Winds and cattle drives up the King's Road to South City slaughterhouses kicked up the dust.
All that changed in the 1870s when a group of local property owners, intent on subdividing and marketing their land, hired Scottish landscape gardener and new immigrant John McLaren. The hope was to transform the area between Mills Creek and San Mateo Creek into an oasis of beauty that would beckon newcomers to the newly subdivided territory. They succeeded!
McLaren, who spent 14 years in San Mateo County in the employ of George H. Howard before being hired to oversee landscaping in Golden Gate Park, transformed 4 miles of the El Camino Real into a tunnel paradise of eucalyptus and elm. By the mid-teens, however, development pressures from El Camino property owners threatened the grove. B'gamers have been fighting ever since to protect the eucs and elms. I can recall old timers like Gloria Barton and Karen Key telling me nothing fills the City Council chambers like a threat to the El Camino trees. Dare we mention the name "Tom" (even though he was a block off El Camino)?
The historic designation of the 2.2 miles between Peninsula Avenue and Ray Drive is an amazing honor. The Resource (officially called the Howard-Ralston Eucalyptus Tree Rows) however, is within the State Highway 82 right-of-way belonging to Caltrans. That means its future may be as tumultuous as its past.
As you walk, bike or drive along El Camino in B’game, look up first at the trees and then past the trees to give thanks! Check these big boys out