Plan to Cut Down Trees Upsets Local Environmentalists

Caltrans is planning on cutting about 15 eucalyptus trees on Petaluma Boulevard South, across the river from Shollenberger Park


The Petaluma Wetlands Alliance and other community groups are upset over a plan to remove a eucalyptus grove as Caltrans prepares to build a new interchange at Petaluma Boulevard South.

The 15 or so eucalyptus trees across the river from Shollenberger Park are home to herons and egrets, who nest there for most of the year. Local birding enthusiasts love observing them as do countless visitors to the park.

The trees are located on the parcel owned by Dutra Materials and are not in the way of the planned improvements, which include re-alignment and widening of Petaluma Boulevard South, a new overcrossing and four traffic signals for drivers heading out of town.

But because the nesting birds are federally protected, Caltrans could be forced to stop work if birds are found in the trees during nesting season, which runs February 15 through October.

“Caltrans views eucalyptus as an invasive weed, which is true, but in this case the trees are also an established rookery,” said David Keller, a member of Sonoma County Conservation Action and a former City Councilmember.

“We have been working for three years to get Caltrans to consider a number of alternatives from an aesthetic and engineering perspective and they have essentially told us to buzz off.”

A call and email to Caltrans were not immediately returned.

According to Bob Dyer, a senior docent for the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance, more than 400 birds have hatched from the so-called Shollenberger Colony. The PWA and Madrone Audobon Society have urged Caltrans to plant native trees, such as cottonwoods, but say Caltrans won’t commit to a landscaping plan until all of the construction is done.

Read Dyer’s recent letter to the editor here

Environmental groups have also met with the city to discuss a plan to plant new native trees at Shollenberger Park, although it will take years before the trees would be mature enough for nesting.

The trees are planned for removal sometime before February 15, the official start of egret and heron nesting season.

What do you think about Caltrans' plan to remove a grove of eucalyptus trees from Petaluma Boulevard South?

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Patrick M. January 01, 2013 at 03:05 AM
Keller Quote: “We have been working for three years to get Caltrans to consider a number of alternatives from an aesthetic and engineering perspective and they have essentially told us to buzz off.” My opinion of Cal Trans just went up.
Olivia January 01, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Exactly. There's something awry here, and I can't help but think that the Dutra Group is involved in Caltrans rash decision to remove these trees needlessly.
Steve Trenam January 01, 2013 at 11:17 PM
I've watched Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and Great Horned Owls nest in those trees for years. Tell Dutra to buzz off.
Active Thinker January 03, 2013 at 05:24 PM
Have we not cut down enough trees in Petaluma? Look at the new target center...the free way was lined with redwood trees..now they are all gone...they will never grow back. Stop cutting trees down...it takes years to grow to that stage again.
D January 04, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Well, isn't eucalyptus a non-native, hazardous (week branches), poisonous (for other plants to grown in the vicinity) 'weed'? Am I wrong here? Also, Active Thinker, I would guess that there was once some trees where your house now sits? The City does have tree mitigation. I am all for protecting valuable trees but each circumstance is different and improvements can be made to mitigate loss.


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