There is little known about the pine tree in Downtown Ventura’s Plaza Park, aka Canon Park, that now stands as a natural, rooted statue of a rising phoenix, an homage to what the city of Ventura endured and has overcome since the Thomas Fire. The phoenix itself is a Greek mythological creature, a legendary bird known for its beauty and brilliance that bursts into fire, burns to ashes and is born again to live anew in splendid glory. The fact that this tree was dying at the same time that Ventura was burning, healing and rebuilding is also an unusual coincidence.
Nearly half of the trees in Plaza Park have individual plaques, stating scientific names and facts about their growth. This lone pine had none. Searching for information, the Museum of Ventura County went on a mission to find documentation of what could be considered Ventura’s own “Giving Tree.”
Arborist and wood artist John Mahoney with West Coast Arborists spent roughly two weeks shaping what was left of the tree after its branches and the bulk of its trunk was cut down. The species seems to be a matter of debate. Mahoney said that the tree is an Aleppo pine while Mike Melore, tree coordinator with the city of Ventura, said it was a Canary Island pine. The age of the tree is unknown, but its height — around 80 feet before it was cut down — suggests that it may be over 100 years old. Docents at the Museum of Ventura County tracked down several photos of the park where the tree could be visible, though it’s not completely clear if the tree in question can be distinguished clearly from others. One photograph dates back to 1909.
What is certain is that this mysterious tree has lived through much and has seen many grand and unsettling headlines: a testament to the endurance of life.