Rare tree halts plans for Smart Train in Cotati

COTATI, Calif.

Here is the opposite of that tree falling in the forest, with no one around. An Albino Chimera Redwood, just sitting by the soon-to-be Smart Train tracks in Cotati is a complication for the future commuter railroad.

"At this point, we're exploring all the options," said Smart Train spokesperson Carolyn Glendening.

It's what happens when, after decades in obscurity, experts discover the tree is maybe one of ten in the world; a scientific oddity.

"Two species in one tree," tree expert Al Lockwood said. "Two sub species, to be more proper about it."

The tree has been here longer than most residents. But not Louise Santaro, who lives across the street.

"Come in the fall and in the spring you see this yellow and you think, gee it's gonna die," she said.

Why else would the branches turn white or yellow? Well, now we know. And that's partially thanks to historian Pru Draper, who wrote about it in the Cotati Historical Society newsletter. She hasn't had a moment of peace, since.

"Already I had a message this morning wanting to know if we had an online petition," she said. When asked if she knows how to do one of those, Draper answered, "No, and I'm not going to learn."

If Smart leaves the tree in place it says studies show that passing trains would eventually kill it. There's one proposal to take cuttings and replant it, or possibly to move the tree. Locals say to just leave it alone.

"Leave it alone," Santaro said. "Don't move it."

Clearly, this is a case of a community not knowing what it has or had until maybe too late.

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