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SMART halts plans to chop rare tree

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A rare chimeric coast redwood in Cotati will be spared the ax, at least for now, after Sonoma-Marin rail officials bowed to public opposition Thursday and suspended the planned removal of the tree to make way for train tracks.

Tom Stapleton, a former Sonoma County arborist who now works in Amador County, raised concerns about the loss of the unusual tree — which could be one of only a handful of coast redwoods known to be in existence that exhibit both albino and normal foliage on the same branches.

Prue Draper, left, of the Cotati Historical Society and Louise Santero, a longtime Cotati resident, stand next to a rare chimeric coast redwood tree near the railroad track at East Cotati Avenue on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Cotati. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

Prue Draper, left, of the Cotati Historical Society and Louise Santero, a longtime Cotati resident, stand next to a rare chimeric coast redwood tree near the railroad track at East Cotati Avenue on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Cotati. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

SMART had scheduled the tree for removal, possibly within the month, saying its location violates Federal Railroad Administration regulations governing the safe operation of its planned commuter train.

Stapleton’s concerns, outlined Wednesday in a Press Democrat story, went national — drawing calls from news media across the country, along with offers to help from other arborists and ordinary tree lovers.

Supporters of the effort also started a Cotati Redwood Facebook page.

On Thursday afternoon, Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager, said he had suspended the removal plans.

“I wanted to pause and make sure we do the right thing for the community and the environment,” Mansourian said. “We are a big part of the community and we have extreme care with our environment, and we want to make sure we do the right thing.

“Everything comes to a halt with this tree removal until we bring in additional experts.”

(See more photos of the tree)

People behind the effort to save the tree welcomed the move.

“Hurray! That’s the first step. That’s fantastic,” said Cotati historian Prue Draper. She and others recently raised the alarm that SMART’s initial decision two years ago to leave the tree had changed with the addition of a second, side track at the Cotati station.

“This is wonderful,” Stapleton said. “I can sleep at night.”

Stapleton researches rare coast redwoods, including the true albino or “ghost redwoods” and other chlorophyll-deficient anomalies. He said his research indicates there are fewer than 10 known coast redwood “chimeras,” which have both normal and albino characteristics on the same limb.

SMART provided an arborist’s report Thursday that states chimeric redwoods aren’t so rare.

“About 60 chimera coast redwoods have been documented within the native coast redwood range south of Del Norte County,” states the report, authored by Kent Julin of Arborscience, a subcontractor hired by Sonoma Marin Arborists to examine the tree in Sept. 2012. “The number of documented chimeras is a significant underestimation of the total chimera coast redwood population due to lack of access to a large percentage of the redwood forest.”

Julin concluded that the tree is “an unusual chimera coast redwood specimen,” but that its health would be harmed by construction and the tree would be a falling or wind hazard to the tracks and passing trains.

“If the siding track cannot be relocated, I recommend tree removal,” the arborist report states.

The 52-foot-tall, 40-inch diameter tree sits just north of East Cotati Avenue about 15 feet west of the tracks. A neighbor who knew the family that planted it dates it as being at least 67 years old.

Mansourian said SMART isn’t opposed to Stapleton’s effort to have the tree moved.

“It would be terrific,” he said. “I’ll be very excited to do that.”

Stapleton said he is meeting Friday with Cotati representatives to explore potential sites for the tree on city land. He also said he is taking bids for the costs of removing the tree.

He said he is meeting with SMART representatives as well to discuss options.

Mansourian said the agency will gather information from other experts before making further decisions about the tree.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.





8 Responses to “SMART halts plans to chop rare tree”

  1. Bruce Johann CCNP says:

    That is, RUN the train!

  2. Bruce Johann CCNP says:

    It seems Greg K doesn’t quite get the difference between a chimera and a true albino redwood. What he stated is true for albinos, but not for the green and albino chimera with it’s TWO full sets of chromosomes. This form can fully support itself, and does, as it stands alone with no nearby trees to root-graft with. It should be left in-situ, with cuttings taken for propagation of more. With 60 feet of width, there is plenty of room for two tracks, just move the second one to the East side instead of the West by the tree. If need be, do a curved shoofly around it as well. Let’s leave out the political gas and find a way to save the tree and rub the train!

  3. Jake says:

    Another good reason to make English the official language. We all need to be working off the same page.

  4. Rogerllrabbit says:

    DICE UN DICHO Y DICE BIEN, SE VALE SOÑAR, AL PENSAR Y TRATAR DE DARLE UNA SOLUCION A ESTE PROBLEMA, YO PROPONGO A LA COMPAÑÍA FERROVIARIA ESTA SOLUCION:
    QUE VERIFIQUEN EL RADIO DE LA RAIZ DEL ARBOL, Y QUE EL TREN Y TODOS LOS TRENES QUE PASEN, SE DETENGAN AL MINIMO NIVEL DE VELOCIDAD, PASAR LO MAS DESPACIO EL PERIMETRO DE RADIO DE LAS RAICES, Y A LA VEZ, DANDO OPORTUNIDAD A LOS PASAJEROS DE TOMAR FOTOS AL ARBOL.
    EN ESA MISMA IDEA, EL TREN PUDIERA PARAR TOTALMENTE, DANDO UN PEQUEÑO BREAK O UN PEQUEÑO DESCANSO PARA QUE LA GENTE PUEDA BAJAR CON SUS NIÑOS Y TOMARSE FOTOS CON EL ARBOL, TOCARLO, ABRAZARLO, DANDOLE AMOR.
    PARA ESE MOMENTO, EL TREN YA AVANZO LENTAMENTE EL RADIO DE AFECTACION POR LA VIBRACION, Y LOS PASAJEROS PODER SUBIR Y CONTINUAR SU CAMINO.

  5. Follower says:

    This is a great example of an instance where the Enviro-fascists are right. (Even a stopped clock is right twice a day!)

    It’s also a great example of how Government wastes our money.

    Notice no mention of how much this “pause” is going to cost US?!

    WHY?
    Because they couldn’t care less! They have absolutely NO CONCERN for the cost of delaying the project to deal with this tree problem. It’s not even on the radar.

    WHY?
    Because it’s not their money and they know that no matter how much money they waste delaying the project to debate an issue that should have been dealt with in the planning stages, the sheeple will just vote to fork over more!

    More, more, more.

    It’s never enough and even if it was, you are too dumb to be trusted with one red cent more than it takes to survive without Government assistance.

    Any extra money you earn is extra money your neighbor didn’t and it’s just not fair that you have more than your neighbor.

    It’s not fair that you work those extra hours to shine brighter than those who don’t.

    It’s not fair that you worked to develop skills allowing you to rise above that minimum wage job when the other guy clocked out a 5:00 sharp every day to go party or just relax.

    This is liberalism. This is what’s best for you.

  6. There is no doubt that is a rare tree. But is it a scientifically valuable tree in the sense that studying its rareness will produce any benefits?

    From Wikipedia, it sounds as if this tree is the equivalent of a diseased human being:

    An ‘albino’[a] redwood is a redwood tree which is unable to produce chlorophyll,and so has white needles instead of the normal green. In order to survive it must join its roots to the roots of a normal redwood, usually the parent tree from whose base it has sprouted, from which it obtains nutrition as a parasite.

    At the very least, this tree is an appropriate symbol for Cotati, whose City Hall is run by overpaid parasites: http://www.cotatitaxgreed.com

  7. Jake says:

    Now if we could just chop the little train going nowhere. It should be transplanted to China from whence it came. It would be appreciated there.

  8. PapaESoCo says:

    Well Good! It would seem from the reading I have done that this is indeed a rare tree. It may well be within the range of possibility to dig it up and move it.