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Fall finally comes to Tree City, USA
More than 16,000 trees & counting line Manteca streets
Next to a dental office in downtown Manteca on the south side of Wilson Park behind the Post Office is this ginkgo tree at its yellow best in the fall. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Manteca is known as The Family City.

But it also has green moniker, one that is ecologically and environmentally friendly – Tree City, USA. It has proudly earned that name for more than two decades.

The trees around the city are literally living proof of that honor. At the end of 2008, the city was maintaining 8,801 trees in public right-of-way, plus another 7,596 trees in parks and at the Manteca Golf Course. Overall, the number of municipal trees was 16,397 which was almost double the 8,567 trees that the city had a decade prior. In contrast, Manteca’s population during that span of time increased by about 40 percent – from 47,114 in 1998 to 66,451 in 2008.

Those numbers have jumped further in the last four years.

What that growth, no pun intended, in the number of municipal trees also means many of Manteca’s major thoroughfares have become a kaleidoscope of autumn colors. Back in the 1980s, you have to use a lot of gas in your car driving around town to look for fall color. About that time, the only surefire fall burst of colors you can find without fail are the ancient and towering ginkgo trees next to Wilson Park behind the Post Office downtown and in front of the Plantation-style white Cabral house on Lincoln Avenue just a skip-and-a-hop away from the courthouse on Center Street. The stately liquidambars on the north and east sides of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church brightened up that neighborhood as well every year. Unfortunately, those trees had to be condemned by the city and then removed. The reason: the groundswell of roots which were too close for comfort to the sidewalks posed as hazards for pedestrians. The trees’ demise did not happen without an outcry from many people who wanted the trees preserved. Today, the liquidambars have been replaced by Chinese pistache which were planted farther away from the sidewalks. This variety of trees also throws a colorful foliage show in the fall, albeit a different shade from the bright oranges and yellows of the liquidambars.

Thanks to the foresight of city leaders, and the dedication of former city arborist Ed Maze who has since retired, you can drive just about anywhere around Manteca in the fall and be treated to a windshield tour of colors that include the bright yellow hues of ginkgo trees. These major streets include Mission Ridge Avenue from South Main Street to Union Road, the stretch of road that begins as Cottage Avenue, then turns into Spreckels Avenue after Yosemite Avenue, then to Industrial Park Drive all the way to South Main Street. Along Louise Avenue from the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the west all the way to just west of Cottage Avenue are trees like the Golden Rain which begins its foliage show in spring with its cascade of yellow and chartreuse colors, and then turns into golden brown and reddish brown in the fall.

Just outside Manteca is the Caswell Memorial State Park where a cacophony of fall colors explode at this time of the year, thanks to the wild grape vines that have covered this last stand of valley oak trees for centuries, and other varieties of plants and trees that are indigenous to the area.

Of course, if all these are not enough fall-foliage viewing for you, you can head up to the foothills and, in just a matter of an hour or two, if that, you can feast your eyes to even more autumn colors and even bring them home with you in gigabytes to show off to family and friends. Just don’t leave home without your camera when you do decide to take that fall-colors tour.

209 staff reporter