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Ornaments Glisten on Lafayette Reservoir Plum Tree

Updated: Tradition goes back two decades as baby strollers, joggers and dog walkers bring ornaments to hang on tree on the far side of the reservoir.

Update, Christmas Eve. The ornament count is up to 140ish on the plum tree. Again, a clear day with recent rain cleaning out the air. Thousands of walkers at the reservoir on Christmas Eve.

Christmas is a time of giving and fellowship and bringing ornaments to decorate the purple-leaf plum tree at Lafayette Reservoir.

For about two decades, the dog walkers and joggers and baby strollers have been adorning the tree on the 2.7-mile paved path around the reservoir. I observed about 50 knickknacks on the tree on Dec. 7, and two on Thanksgiving.

"I always enjoy when the first ornament goes up," said Andie Leandro, senior ranger at Lafayette Reservoir for the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

From the parking lot (watch out for the construction there this season), the plum tree is about two-thirds of a mile walking toward the east, or clockwise, around the reservoir.

"I started walking the reservoir about 20 years ago pushing my oldest in a stroller," recalled Melissa Coupin of Orinda, responding to a photo of the ornaments on the Lamorinda Patch Facebook page. "I remember one year making the peanut butter in a pine cone rolled in birdseed ornaments for the tree and pushing one or both of the boys in the stroller to get there."

This is Leandro's 18th Christmas working at the reservoir. "The tree was already going strong when I arrived," she said.

She believes it began with a family hanging an ornament to commemorate a recently departed family member who "spent many a day here," Leandro said. "It has now taken on a life of its own."

Leandro thinks the ornament count might be lower than usual this season with frequent rain restraining the numbers.

The purple-leaf plum blooms in early January, so the park staff posts a sign after Christmas to let people know when staff will be clearing the tree.

"The ornaments that remain are usually in such poor shape from the weather that they are discarded," Leandro said. "However, there have been some that were still in relatively good shape, and we have donated them to a senior living home."

Jose December 26, 2012 at 08:49 AM
I love ornamented plum trees. Cherry trees are my favorite, but anytime anonymous persons decorate a public space...that is a time for a little celebration.
Diddo Clark December 28, 2012 at 06:01 AM
The late Elizabeth Penn, retired Campolindo High School P.E. teacher who lived in Lafayette, put the first ornament on that plum tree. I have thought of it as Penny's tree ever since. She walked around the Reservoir many times, for many years. I have been walking around the Reservoir since 1956 - long before it was legal. Diddo
Lance Howland December 30, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Diddo: Thanks for the information that set my imagination going. Do you have any ideas when Elizabeth put that first ornament on the tree? 1960s? 1970s? And what was the trail like in 1956 -- before it was legal? -- Lance Howland, editor, Lamorinda Patch

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