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Eucalyptus Trees Cut Down Along South Petaluma Boulevard

Trees removed Sunday as Caltrans prepares to reconfigure interchange.

Work crews cut down an old eucalyptus grove on Petaluma Boulevard South on Sunday evening, much to the disappointment of environmentalists who told Caltrans the trees are used for nesting for egrets and herons and had asked for alternatives.

Caltrans is set to begin work on an interchange project in the area and said that removing the 15 or so trees was needed so that construction was not delayed. Egrets and heron are federally protected, meaning that the trees could not be cut down once the birds started nesting there later this spring.

The trees are located on the parcel owned by Dutra Materials, which wants to build an asphalt plant there.

“Tonight, under the cover of Sunday night darkness, Ghilotti Construction, Caltrans and a tree crew are chain sawing the grove of the heron and egret rookery,” wrote David Keller, a local environmental activist and Sonoma Country Conservation Action board member in an email to supporters.

“It’s disturbing that Caltrans' contractor for the Petaluma Boulevard South interchange would take the added safety risk of dropping these large trees at night.  Were they afraid of having the community's presence and witness of this destruction?”

Caltrans representative Robert Haus has said that the agency reviewed various designs and the one selected was deemed environmentally superior. A worker on the site reportedly told a resident that Ghilotti regularly works “after hours.”

According to Bob Dyer, a senior docent for the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance, more than 400 birds have hatched in the eucalyptus trees, visible as drivers exit Highway 101 at Petaluma Boulevard South. Many birders at Shollenberger Park, across the Petaluma River, also enjoyed seeing the birds.

The Alliance, along with the Madrone Audubon Society, have urged Caltrans to plant native trees nearby, such as cottonwoods, but say Caltrans won’t commit to a landscaping plan until all of the construction is done.

“We are very disappointed that this remarkable natural attraction has been lost to poor planning and errant decision making,” Keller said. “What Dutra could not have done for their project, Caltrans has done with impunity under the cover of darkness.”

Susan Kirks January 18, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Paul, I'm grateful you went to photo document the loss of the grove. When birds such as egrets and herons select sites to nest and raise young - this is part of the mystery of Nature that can never be replaced by humans. The nesting process, the birds, the hundreds of chicks fledged, and the hundreds of hours devoted by volunteer docents to monitor and record the activity are all part of a gentle observatory life process - something very beneficial to share with young people in an educational process. This Colony was also connected to the larger Heron and Egret Prjoect of Audubon Canyon Ranch. The site, at the gateway to Petaluma and in close proximity to Shollenberger Park, Alman Marsh and the sensitive Petaluma Wetlands, has been destroyed. For a frontage road and an interchange design that could have been modified further to be better for Petaluma. In the initial environmental review process, CalTrans had not even included the grove and nesting site in the review process and this had to be communicated to them by members of the public. The grove could have remained, had effective decision making and design processes and respect for what was to be lost been considered.
Cindy Thomas January 18, 2013 at 08:52 PM
The removal of the trees has saddened me almost as much as the "mysterious" burning of the house at Haystack Landing did. http://www.sacredsonoma.com/haystacklanding.html I can't be the only one that has a memory for "mysterious" events in Petaluma, can I? History keeps repeating itself on this piece of Dutra property, a common occurance on develpment intended sites. Like Paul said, draw your own conclusions.
Active Thinker March 27, 2013 at 06:11 PM
More trees were just cut down on the Petaluma Blvd South exit...such a shame on the city for letting this happen. The drive through Petaluma used be nice...now no trees and K-Mart, Target, and an auto-row with bright lights on all night....big bummer.
Joe April 22, 2013 at 05:35 AM
Democrats run this, just out for a fast buck, they couldn't care less about wildlife.
Joe April 22, 2013 at 05:40 AM
Democrats pretend to be environmentally friendly but they are not, whole state ran by socialists (in Dem clothing) and worldwide they are known not to be the environments friend.

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