BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Keith Gardiner is present-day owner of the agricultural land where, 130 years ago, the Kern County Land Company, forerunner of Castle and Cooke, planted hundreds of palm trees in the shape of a giant cross — the Cross of Palms, as it’s known to pilots flying into Minter Field.
The palms were originally part of a marketing campaign to sell farmland at what was then known as the Rosedale Colony.
In 1978, PG&E erected power poles that run parallel to many of the palms, in some cases as little as 12 feet away. Decades later, the public utility declared the palms a hazard and started removing them, noting they were beyond their normal lifespan and in danger of damaging power lines.
Gardiner has been fighting the public utility with the support of local historic preservationists.
But now, good news. Gardiner says PG&E has agreed to remove power lines that are too close to the palm trees and replace them with underground lines — and help replace the palms they’ve cut down. The replacement palms are coming from Taft Highway — about 20 palms being donated by Old River Sod.
“PG&E is taking steps every day to improve the safety and reliability of our electric system. We also want to do right by our customers. This includes working with customers like Mr. Gardiner to manage vegetation located near power lines. PG&E has reached a mutual agreement with Mr. Gardiner ensuring his palm trees are preserved while maintaining the safety of our customers and the neighborhoods we serve,” said Peter Kenny, PG&E Interim Vice President of Vegetation Management.
Old River Sod’s owners, Gardiner says, learned of the controversy from coverage by 17 News.
The painstaking replanting process is expected to begin on November 1st.